Atlanta — “Stay at home” means more computer and tablet time for millions of Georgia families which is creating challenges for areas without access to high-speed broadband internet.
“When COVID-19 hit, we realized it would highlight the need for connectivity,” said Deana Perry of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. “Suddenly you have the need to telework, the need for telemedicine. Certainly, the continuity of learning.”
Perry has been leading an effort the map the areas of the state where families cannot get access to broadband internet. She is now working with Dooley and the Department of Education to find short-term solutions.
“We knew our families, in the rural areas especially, are suffering as they try to access the internet,” Dooley said. “They may have providers somewhere near them but that last mile seems to be hardest.”
Perry said population density along with terrain and topography create barriers for telecom companies.
“The numbers are not there for providers, therefore it’s hard to make the business case to build out,” Perry said.
In some areas of Georgia, if you want to get connected, you may need to get in your car and drive to the nearest library.
State agencies are partnering to map a statewide network of locations where students can sit in a car, outside, to access the internet.
“The nice thing about the libraries is they already had some of their regional services up and running for public access,” Dooley said.
The state passed legislation to work with the telecom industry to improve the broadband problem in 2018, but long-term solutions are still a long way off, and educators know the need is now.
“If we don’t get it right then we will continue to see our gaps grow,” Dooley emphasized.
The statewide WiFi map can be found HERE.