Internet access has been essential during the coronavirus pandemic, keeping our communities together and helping our economies hum along in difficult times. As a candidate for elected office in 2020, one of the greatest obstacles I have faced on the campaign trail is the lack of broadband internet availability to my home address in rural Yamhill County: the joke on our campaign Zoom calls is you can either see my face, or hear my voice, but not both! For important meetings and town halls, I often drive over 40 minutes to my sister’s house on the other side of Yamhill County just to log-on with a reliable internet connection. Rural Oregonians shouldn’t have to travel miles upon miles to access such an essential utility.
One of the most practical things we can do to reboot the economies of the west Willamette Valley and all of Oregon is to support the installation of high-speed internet infrastructure in rural communities. My 2020 general election opponent, Brian Boquist, voted against efforts to expand rural broadband internet; I believe rural broadband internet is crucial to closing the gap between urban and rural economies. Here is why expanding rural broadband internet access is one of my top priorities:
- MORE JOBS: Installing rural broadband is a core part of my jobs plan because it increases access to remote work opportunities, stimulating economic growth in our local economies. Read more about my jobs plan here.
- HEALTHCARE ACCESS: Rural Oregonians have limited options when it comes to accessing healthcare locally, and often have to travel long distances to major metropolitan hubs to receive specialized care. By expanding reliable broadband internet throughout our rural communities, all Oregonians will be able to access top notch care via telemedicine without taking off half a day of work for travel. Read more about my healthcare plan here.
- INCREASE HOME EQUITY: Studies have shown that broadband internet access increases remote rural property values, adding equity for rural homeowners and the investment they make in their property. Furthermore, having expanded internet options will help lower monthly internet bills.
I believe the best level of government for determining where rural broadband internet should go is at the county level. The state legislature can support this process by establishing clear protocols for counties to follow and ensuring broadband internet companies/special interest groups do not rig the process in a manner that stifles community input.
Our rural communities are full of creative ideas, and with reliable internet access, our rural residents and businesses can help strengthen our state economy and culture without limitations—the sky’s the limit with rural high-speed internet!
One fun opportunity I had on the campaign trail during the coronavirus pandemic was a “virtual town hall” hosted by a Yamhill County small business that specializes in virtual reality — a technology that has been increasingly helpful not just for alternative forms of political gatherings, but also online real estate tours, experiential distance education, and many other creative applications. Watch where I discuss more about my rural broadband internet plan during this recent virtual reality town hall here.