WFB: Pandemic Has Shown Broadband Inequity

Whether you live in downtown Seattle or on a North Central Washington cattle ranch, COVID-19 has impacted your day to day activity. Over the past six months, face to face meetings have come to an end, meaning we’re doing more virtual communication. But for much of Washington’s Ag community, especially those that live in some of the most remote portions of the state, Zoom meetings are just not an option.

Bre Elsey, Associate Director of Government Affairs at the Washington Farm Bureau, said broadband access is not just a novelty, it’s vital for 21st century success.

“When you are owing and operating you own small business and you’re trying to remain competitive on a local or sometimes national scales, the inability to send something as minor as a business invoice is really impactful for a small agriculture operation.”

Elsey noted the Farm Bureau has advocated for years to expand virtual and on-line meeting opportunities in Washington, such as remote legislative testimony. She said that would allow additional rural Washingtonians to interact on the state level, without leaving their farm and traveling hundreds of miles.

She added with social distancing requirements in place for half a year, she’s hopeful the pandemic will spur lawmakers to increase efforts to expand broadband access to every corner of the state.

“If you can’t physically go to a legislative hearing anymore because they’re just not happening person; if you can’t physically go to your local ecology meeting that’s maybe happening right in your county, how do you electronically engage in that process?  So, the silver lining I think it’s forcing that conversation, we have to have electronic means to keep the public engaged.”

Elsey noted wanting to expand broadband access is only half the battle, adding much of the needed infrastructure is missing in rural Washington.

Click Here to participate in the state Department of Commerce’s rural broadband survey. Elsey says the survey will take one minute, and will give the state valuable information about where services exist and where they do not.

If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *