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Letters to the Editor for July 22 Edition

Entirety of Botetourt County needs high speed Internet service

Editor:

This is an open letter to the citizens, Board of Supervisors, and administrators of Botetourt County.

Botetourt County leaders are moving quickly to provide the most reliable, accessible, economical and fastest Internet services to the citizens of our county. Many thanks for the countless hours spent in research, grant submissions, and decisions to bring high speed Internet to all.

Right now, high speed Internet access is not available except for some parts of the county. This service could benefit the geographic majority of our population. Among other things, high speed Internet access would allow citizens to work from home, isolated senior citizens to participate in many activities, and students to receive instruction.

“If you do not have a specific problem, you do not see that there is a problem.” Fortunately, I live out here in Northern Botetourt County, and have very poor Internet service so I can understand the issues– citizens cannot work from home even if they need to; many citizens, especially the elderly, are further isolated; and our students are handicapped all by lacking high speed Internet.

Due to the current COVID 19 restrictions, only those citizens who have high speed Internet have been able to work from home. Without modern Internet service, parents do not have the option to continue working, but now from home. Working from home would allow them to keep their children safe, but many had no alternative but to quit their jobs. Also, since many people nowadays can work from home, we lose good new neighbors–because broadband is not available where they would like to relocate.

Isolated senior citizens are handicapped in most of the county due to lack of services. In other areas of our county many services, including high speed Internet are available, affording those fortunate citizens communications and even life-saving technology such as new forms of telemedicine.

Then we have the problem of accessible high-speed Internet for students. Elementary, middle, high school and college students can attend classes online, but they suffer with slow Internet unless they live in the populated areas of our county.

As a bit of a history lesson– in 1995, the librarian at James River High School, Linda Vail, and others worked tirelessly to provide Internet services for the students from the isolated regions served by JRHS. The old, outdated “Readers Guide to Periodical Literature” became obsolete thanks to that effort as students could then get current facts from reputable sources on the Internet. Now, students have the problem of attempting on-line classes and research with slow, unreliable connections.

Students in Northern Botetourt have mentioned that their Internet service is poor, so they have a difficult time with online classes. As just a couple of examples, in a recent virtual faculty meeting at Dabney Lancaster Community College, I lost valuable information (Zoom went down five times in a meeting of less than an hour), and downloading a two-minute instructional video took four hours. How frustrating that would be for a student to lose contact at an important moment!

No one could expect to work out here if they need fast Internet service, senior citizens are further handicapped, and students cannot excel in school if they have to spend countless hours with unreliable Internet service.

Our leaders are magicians– I know they can pull “fiber optic cables” out of a hat and somehow get high speed service available ASAP.

Barbara Kolb

Eagle Rock

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