Let’s face it. One of the reasons we choose to live in Madison County is because of it being a beautiful rural community. We have also heard the tired excuse about growth and how that will damage what we love so much about Madison County. Investing in broadband infrastructure does not necessarily mean higher taxes or lost rural beauty. There are ways to make broadband work in Madison and all the old excuses are just that; OLD. We don’t have to give up all the things we love about rural living to invest in this community’s future. I’m not a native Madisonian, but I do love it here, and consider it my home.
For many years now, people have wanted reliable internet in our rural community. We have had opportunities to fix it, but it always fell through the cracks. In many ways, it took a pandemic to make people realize that maybe we should have figured out a way to invest in rural broadband infrastructure before now. Internet isn’t just for nerds. Unless you have been living under a rock, our children need it to learn (especially now), our teachers need it to teach, and it is essential to communicate important information, among other things. Find one person who doesn’t know someone, have a grandchild, child, or friend who is struggling through virtual learning because of unreliable internet. This problem could have been addressed, or at least had a plan developed, long ago. Now we are paying the price.
Our school district is doing a great job as they navigate through the same uncertainty we are navigating as parents, but they can only do so much. They did an excellent job getting equipment to students, as well as keeping us informed, but there are many things that are out of their control, such as unreliable residential internet in our county.
Excuses about cost, etc, are stale and old. Greene and Orange counties are accelerating by us. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not about keeping up with surrounding counties, but it is about doing what is right for our residents right now.
Yes, there are options out there for just about all of us. Some are less than reliable, slow, or both. We can throw names of services we are all aware of, used, and had horrible experiences with, but that isn’t the point. It is 2020, we shouldn’t have to pay a premium for a less than reliable, data capped, and/or outdated internet connections. There are good ideas out there on how to handle this problem, but it seems they fall on deaf ears.
I’m actually one of the blessed 10-15% of Madison County residents who have reliable, fast internet, and still get to enjoy rural living. Many of my friends and family reach out to me for help getting reliable internet to their homes. I can help them get their home and business networks running great… No problem! Unfortunately, I cannot deliver internet service.
I feel like one of the biggest stumbling blocks with providing reliable internet access in Madison County, is the lack of understanding. I know it is being talked about with county leadership, but I don’t think the right voices are being heard or there is a lack of voices in the know. How do we fix this? I haven’t been to meetings. Maybe I should start going. Maybe it will take a group of residents and business owners to get together to let county leadership know we are missing the boat. I’m not trying to condemn anyone, I’m here to help if needed. Just ask questions.
This isn’t about politics. This may be about compromise. I think we can work together as a community to figure out how to fix this problem. We have lots of people, with different backgrounds, and good ideas. We are a hard working, proud community that can undertake a problem like this and move Madison County forward and be leaders in Central Virginia.