Living Next-Door to a Digitally Connected World

I live in what must, by any reasonable definition, be termed a “rural” part of Ohio, at the edge of what is considered the Ohio Appalachian Region.  I also live in the smallest (by enrollment) and largest (by square miles) public school district in the county.  Education today is as dependent upon reliable high-speed Internet as it is dependent upon water and electricity.

So, how many public wi-fi hotspots are there within the boundaries of this district?

Zero.

Additionally, there are many residences within the district (mine included) with no land-based high-speed Internet option.  At home, we rely on smartphones as our connection to the Internet – via a direct cellular connection, or using the smartphone as a “hotspot” to connect a laptop.  Our only other option is satellite-based service, which currently runs in the neighborhood of $70 per month before taxes, fees, equipment, and installation.  This is simply unaffordable for many, especially in a district with two-thirds of elementary students and half of junior high and high school students qualifying for the free or reduced-priced lunch program.

So, how does the Internet Improve my daily life?

Or perhaps the better first question to ask is, does the Internet improve my daily life?

The answer to the second question is a resounding YES, despite the seeming lack of access – and here are some important reasons why.

  • Living where I do means a trip to a shopping mall or department store is a serious time investment – at least 45 minutes one way.  Being able to research and purchase goods online and have them delivered to our door is an incredible time-saver.
  • My wife and I both work full time.  Communicating real-time with our children’s teachers is not always an easy task.  The Internet helps us keep in touch asynchronously, sending messages when we are able, and keeping up with information via the school website and social media.
  • A trip to the bank is not always convenient.  Being able to manage finances from the device already in our hands is another great time-saver.

In our rural, sparsely-populated part of the world, one might think that the lack of options for connectivity would make the Internet less of a benefit for us.  On the contrary, we find it to be an indispensable tool in leveling the playing field for us with nearby communities with abundant resources.  For some, having high-speed Internet in their homes makes some activities of daily life more convenient.  For us, the smartphone helps make some activities of daily life possible.

Connect Ohio, a subsidiary of Connected Nation and non-profit in Ohio, is working to bring the benefits of universal broadband to Ohio, ultimately changing lives through technology. It is leading the effort to increase high-speed Internet access, adoption, and use to diversify the economy and ensure Ohio’s competitiveness in the connected global economy of the twenty-first century. For more information on how Connect Ohio is working to improve communities and lives across Ohio visit http://www.connectohio.org.

To learn more about how the Internet improves daily lives follow @ConnectOH and #ConnectingOH on Twitter and Facebook.

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