EDITORIAL: Bridging the digital divide

Published 1:00 am Saturday, May 30, 2020

Last weekend, the cover story of The Ironton Tribune addressed the need for improvements in broadband service to rural areas.

While figures from the FCC somewhat illustrate the disparity in service for areas outside cities, they paint far too rosy a picture of the situation.

Using a census block methodology and relying on unverified data from carriers, they overestimate the reach of high speed service.

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For instance, going by the FCC’s maps, you would be led to believe that communities like Kitts Hill and Getaway are covered just fine.

But, as many in the area (and we have heard from some) can tell you, this simply is not the case.

As consultant Tom Reid told us, there needs to be a change in the way service is mapped and a process needs to be put in place to verify information provided by carriers and put an end to fudging the numbers.

Billions in government money have gone to carriers over the past two decades for the purpose of improving service and there is little to show for it.

We were also glad to hear that officials in Ohio, such as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson were aware and committed to working on this issue. In fact, Johnson raised the issue in a visit to The Tribune two years ago, well before the pandemic made it abundantly clear just how badly improvement is needed.

And this is not an issue confined to Lawrence County, with the urban-rural digital divide existing throughout the nation.

It is our hope that with the need for remote learning by schools in the coming year, Johnson and Portman will be able to rally colleagues and get some much-needed movement on this issue.

There is simply too much relying on reliable digital communications for parts of Lawrence County and other rural areas to continue to be left out.