Congressman Chris Jacobs, R-NY-27, held a virtual press conference Monday with local leaders to address what he called the urgent need for high-speed internet coverage in rural communities. In addition, participants discussed “the growing divide in digital literacy skills” and Orleans County United Way’s current efforts to survey residents.
“Since taking office, I have made increasing high-speed internet access in our rural communities a priority,” Jacobs said. “Our businesses, especially farming and agribusiness, are rapidly moving online and the pandemic has only raised the urgency for expanded connectivity. The rebuilding and future prosperity of our region depend heavily on ensuring Western New Yorkers have access to reliable high-speed internet and the skills to use it. The first step to meeting this goal is ensuring we have accurate data on who still needs coverage, that is why the work the Orleans County United Way is doing is critical. I am committed to supporting their efforts, and others to ensure we close the connection and digital literacy divide.”
Orleans County Legislature Chairperson Lynne M. Johnson said, “Years of no reliable broadband creates gaps in learning, thwarts economic development and societal growth. We are grateful to Congressman Jacobs for his commitment to prioritizing broadband and for recognizing the vital role community feedback plays in the United Way of Orleans County’s digital literacy initiative. Rural communities like Orleans County are the heart of America. Throughout the pandemic, counties like ours have helped keep the country together. Our farmers’ corn has been used to make ethanol hand sanitizer. Orleans County manufacturers make medical parts and equipment, hand sanitizer and protective face masks. It is incumbent upon us to advocate every day for these people – the workers, the businesses owners, and for the students who would be like them. Lack of high-speed internet can impact the health and safety of every person in every community, the work force and supply chains across the country. Currently, 500 Orleans County seniors – who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 – either have no internet or lack the digital skills to enroll online for the vaccine. We must remain focused on delivering not only high-speed broadband but digital solutions to everyone – from students to seniors – still impacted by New York’s rural digital divide.”
The Orleans County United Way is currently conducting a survey to assess the gap in broadband connection and digital literacy skills in the county. They are still looking for participants. To fill out a survey, a resident of Orleans County can find the survey online here. A hard copy of the survey is also available for residents at Orleans County Public Libraries.
Earlier today, Jacobs also sent a bipartisan letter to President Joe Biden urging that any upcoming infrastructure proposal from the White House make rural broadband access expansion a priority.