Access to high speed broadband internet has become increasingly important in today’s dynamic and changing world. From commerce to communication, so much of our lives depend on reliable internet access. While most urban residents enjoy high speed internet, many residents in rural areas do not. This is why I am working to find new options for residents in rural areas of Snohomish County to access reliable, high speed broadband internet.
As traffic congestion in our region continues to frustrate commuters, telecommuting is becoming more and more common. The ability to download and send large electronic files, participate in conference and video calls, and manage online communications from your own home allows for this telecommuting to occur. This convenience allows residents the best of both worlds, being able to live in the peace and quiet of rural Snohomish County while working for employers in the city.
Rural broadband access not only improves quality of life for residents in the outlying areas, it also creates opportunities to expand economic opportunities and economic development. Small and home-based businesses can blossom and thrive if they have this essential asset.
According to the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Internet Service Providers are currently required to report broadband availability and speed twice a year. But the data provided can be misleading as entire zip codes can be marked as “served” if just one house in the area is served by high speed broadband internet. This means the maps currently used by Congress, federal agencies, and the State do not paint an accurate picture of reliable internet access in rural areas.
This is why I have made rural broadband access a priority as we work with Federal and State partners on Snohomish County’s legislative priorities. At a recent National Association of Counties (NACo) conference, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighted the administration’s focus on access to rural broadband and proposed investments to increase this access. I have also spoken with our representatives in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House about this important issue. These partnerships at both the state and federal level will be critical to making progress on expanding reliable internet access.
As part of the effort to collect and provide data which accurately represents the reliability of internet access in rural areas, NACo has released a mobile app to test broadband upload and download speeds. The app is called “TestIt” and is available on Apple and Android devices. The app allows users to test the speed of broadband internet wherever they area. This app is one step in the right direction to provide better information to decision makers and, eventually, make much needed investments in rural broadband.
I am continuing to work on this issue with Councilman Sam Low who represents East Snohomish County and has many constituents who experience similar issues with high speed internet in the rural areas. With better, more accurate information, I hope we can better serve residents in the outlying areas of our County.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.