to the editor from this week's Chronicle
Leveling the playing field
Opinion By Christine Frei, Executive Director, CEDA
When it comes to the topic of broadband, most of us recognize that broadband connectivity is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness, and a better way of life. However, what many don’t recognize, is that internet connectivity in Idaho is fairly spread out, with many rural areas having inadequate to non-existent internet connection. If we don’t address Idaho’s digital divide now, the risk becomes that there will be a generation of children and adults in underserved, rural communities who will be left behind in the digital age of innovation.
Rural communities are already under tremendous economic pressure and broadband infrastructure is imperative now and even more in the immediate future. A number of these underserved communities recognize there are broadband issues but don’t have a complete understanding of its root cause or have the resources to create and maneuver through a plan of action. They receive conflicting messages between what the internet service provider in their area is telling them versus what their experience is with little or no connectivity. In the northern region and many other rural areas, one of the top challenges for attracting broadband investment is the lack of infrastructure planning and the supports to build a plan. For many of these smaller communities, the various aspects of broadband planning, the cost of broadband infrastructure, and applying for federal grants are overwhelming.
If we want to see broadband initiatives move forward, we need strong leaders that become the voice and support for rural communities or regions to participate in broadband planning. Since the initiation of the Governor’s Broadband Taskforce, the Clearwater Economic Development Association and its other economic regional counterparts have been working on long-range planning, engineering design, capacity building, and grant proposals for rural Idaho communities to build and modernize their broadband infrastructure. This is not a project that can be done centrally at the state level – it requires community leadership and local input coupled with engineering expertise. This is how we have supported dozens of plans that are underway in our region. Our goal is to help as many communities as possible with capacity building and supports.
Up until this point, there has not been sufficient collective voice in all sectors to back the need for connecting communities, remove barriers to building infrastructure, and making a strong case that we can’t wait any longer for the broadband fix. Understanding these underlining issues, a group of leading Idaho community and civic leaders joined together in an effort called Imagine Idaho. These leaders recognize Idaho’s broadband challenges and are committed to serving Idaho communities and citizens by helping promote policies that help their ability to deploy broadband-communications infrastructure in a pro-competitive way and provide the necessary support for capacity building by networking regional experts to locals who need help.
Imagine Idaho recognizes that every community needs a comprehensive plan to improve broadband access. They have coalesced a voice for broadband and are working closely with the Governor, the state legislature, the federal delegation, city staff, business and community organizations, nonprofits, education leaders, and universities. Through the Imagine Idaho coalition of leaders, we are all dedicated to ensuring that every Idahoan has access to reliable broadband that will increase economic benefits, educational benefits, telemedicine benefits, stimulate innovation and unlock limitless possibilities for all Idaho communities and citizens.
To learn more about Imagine Idaho please visit: imagineidaho.org
Literally surrounded by Blessings of Community
A number of reminders to be more consciously aware of the above reality specially pressed home to me last week. On Wednesday I had driven a neighbor to a business appointment in Orofino, returning without incident. But while waiting in the car as this friend completed more errands back in town, I suddenly noticed wisps of steam rising from under the hood of my car, getting rapidly worse. So very thankful I was, knowing that Perfection Tire was only blocks away! Mechanics there quickly discovered that a very loose radiator hose clamp had allowed loss of a lot of fluid and thus the overheating. At this news, my first thought was relief, followed by the realization of how I could so easily have been stranded many miles out on Hwy. 12, where often there isn't even a place to pull off. (So, had I just been protected and blessed, or what?!) Not only did the fine mechanics have us fixed up in mere minutes, but the manager would take no money, saying simply, "We are here to help."
Next morning and back at home, we found ourselves quite heavily snowed in, wondering whether or how we would make it out to attend a friend's memorial service. But then just in time, at considerable risk and inconvenience to themselves, two neighborhood snowplows voluntarily appeared and cleared the cul de sac. Next thing we knew, once out on the main road, there was the big county truck, expertly clearing our way further.
All I mean to acknowledge here is that examples of quiet, dedicated service and caring, for and by others, are daily constant and everywhere around us, including any and every establishment we might happen to visit, and also including the fact that I have ready access to this column where I can express my appreciation.
We all know that there is plenty of trouble and uncertainty in our current world, seemingly now more than ever, but we can surely be mindful and thankful for the rich blessings that we have in one another. In fact, so much of what we might tend to take for granted and think of as "ordinary," is really quite extraordinary - - blessed as we daily are, by both heaven and earth!
No. 304 - 2/21/2021
Wow! What a year! Looking back over 15 months, Marianne my wife, had fully recovered from a serious bout with Sepsis, but was told infection was destroying the cartilage in her left hip! But the surgery to replace that hip was put off until August 5th, due to the ravages of the Corona virus! Prior to that, a wheel chair was her only mode of movement, but a successful surgery, thanks to Dr. Pennington of Pullman and Moscow, has allowed her to recover almost completely, first to a walker, then a cane, and now she gets around fairly well with no help, much better in fact, than her 83+ year old husband, your's truly!
And of course, we all know the controversy that has surrounded the need for economic shut downs, causing unemployment and small business failures and bankruptcy. The requirements that people stay away from their church services, maintain "social distancing," to wear or not wear a mask, to get a vaccine or not get vaccinated, to stay away from in-house dining, to keep gatherings to small numbers, even involving traditional celebrations! Even immediate family gatherings found themselves in violation of dictates from above! And sport seasons? Idaho was fortunate, though frustrated with the lengthy requirement that only one parent per ball player could attend basketball games! What? But go to the state next door, and you find that unlike our state, they have virtually canceled their sport seasons, whereas fortunate Idaho just completed their annual state tournaments! With relatively large crowds of fans cheering! And of course, a world of difference in education policies! Neighboring states still require at home learning, some almost completely, whereas in many Idaho towns, school has been conducted almost exactly as has been in the past! What a difference a state line does make! Just ask residents of Clarkston and Pullman who have conducted little or no athletic events, whereas neighbors across the border have played almost like normal, with barely a hitch or serious interruption! JUST WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
But forget the personal issues we have all had to deal with! On the national political level, strange things have happened. Donald Trump, whose mouth has made him hundreds of enemies, still had an amazing following, getting him around 75 million votes in the recent election! But that amazing figure was not enough to get him elected! I have my personal convictions that something was crazy about that Biden total! How can it be that the low key campaign of the scandal charged Biden could draw 15 million plus more votes, just enough to edge Trump, than his predecessor candidate, Hillary and her huge Clinton Machine, did four years earlier when she went down to Trump with a total of a bit above 60 million votes? My! Biden's low key campaign amazingly generated 15 million plus more votes than Hillary? Everyone to their own opinion, and I respect all, but I choose to believe it does not add up!
Well! We now have a totally socialistic government, with control of president, House and Senate! So anyone surprised that this highly favored regime has taken the steps to slow down and stop fossil fuels? Pipelines shut down, putting 50 to 100 million out of high paying jobs! And don't forget, we are now preparing to battle "Global Warming" by rejoining the Paris Accord! And do not forget the southern border is now opened, inviting millions of immigrants to enter unrestricted, and start enjoying the free benefits that have been offered them! Of course, this threatens the very occupations of earlier immigrants who completed the painful process of becoming legal citizens! Space limitations prevent comment on two recent Trib headlines! One warning of "the globe's dangerous warming," and the next day, "Extreme weather pushing Oklahoma to 14 degrees below zero!" Amazing! This demands a closer look at the two-fold but almost contradictory positions next week! Until then!