California News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – More than half of rural America doesn’t have broadband service, and often, little or no access to the Internet at all, so rural advocates are issuing a call to action. The National Rural Assembly said its highest priorities for small-town America are better Internet access, improved opportunities for young people, and playing a bigger role in fighting climate change.
Sean McLaughlin, the executive director of Access Humboldt in Eureka, is a founding member of the Assembly’s rural broadband group. He said large swaths of northern and eastern California lack a fast Internet connection, strangling commerce and putting students at a disadvantage.
“You have no way to get your homework done,” he said. “It’s really quite a handicap for education, particularly for students who are trying to apply to college; economic opportunities, to find jobs.”
More than 50 million Americans live in rural communities, which make up more than 80 percent of the country’s land mass. The National Rural Assembly is a coalition of more than 500 organizations. It has dubbed its new campaign “Kids, Climate, Connection” (http://ruralassembly.org/).
Assembly chair Dee Davis said kids from small towns are an untapped resource, and they need to be convinced that there are good reasons to stay in their communities.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in rural communities for restoration economies, that is, fixing things that are broken,” he said. “Maybe they’re dealing with issues of pollution, illness or addiction. Young people can be of service; they can make a real difference.”
Davis said those young people will be part of inventing the new industries the country will rely on in this century, particularly in developing wind and solar energy to help fight climate change.