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Internet gap must be ended

A recent Associated Press study found that about 17 percent of American students are currently lacking access to computers at home, while 18 percent are not equipped with broadband Internet service in the home.

This is a problem that hits areas like Lawrence County more severely.

According to a 2018 report from the Federal Communications Commission report, in urban areas in Ohio, 99 percent  of the population has access to fast broadband, while, in rural numbers that number drops by nearly a fourth to 78.4 percent.

Fortunately, school districts in Lawrence County have made strides in dealing with this Internet gap.

For instance, in Symmes Valley and South Point in recent years, each student has  been issued a laptop to take home for school work.

As teachers have attested, these have transformed the teaching environment and been an immense help, allowing students to complete assignments, tests, pull up reference materials and stay connected with their education.

However, there are still many areas that need improvement. As a rural area, many parts of Lawrence County are still lacking in high speed Internet service, as well as wireless and cell service.

This is not an issue that has escaped our leaders.

In an interview with The Tribune last year, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said he aims to make changes in the way broadband access is mapped, in hopes to better determine where underserved areas are.

A census block methodology has been used. Johnson has pointed out this does not accurately represent service in a rural area, as the blocks cover more geographic space. Someone looking at a map would see one provider in the block and deem it adequately served, which would not represent the outlying areas.

We have also seen action from our senators, with Democrat Sherrod Brown pursuing and allocating more funding for broadband, and Republican Rob Portman working to ensure that non-profit rural co-ops can apply for governmental grants and assistance.

We are thankful for the momentum on the issue and hope that our officials continue to work on this issue.

Ohio and Lawrence County’s students deserve all the benefits of a 21st century education.