The NTCA Smart Rural Communities Conference in Washington, D.C. today offered some great examples of how high-speed broadband can improve the quality of life in rural areas.

On one of numerous panels at the event, Keith Gabbard, CEO of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative (PRTC) in rural Kentucky, shared the story of a man in his community who was out of work and barely scraping by when he was able to use a high-speed broadband connection to apply for and win a tech support position with Apple.

“It really changed his life,” said Gabbard, who noted that the man was one of over 1500 people in PRTC’s serving area who have been able to get work-from-home jobs, thanks to having excellent internet connectivity.

Catherine Nicolaou, broadband program manager for the City of Albuquerque, talked of a young girl who ran into a community computer center in a neighboring rural area with her first A-grade paper. Nicolaou attributed the accomplishment to having access to high-speed broadband to enable her to do homework and research in a way that she couldn’t before.

“I can’t imagine sitting among my peers and not having the same resources as the kids next to me,” commented Nicolaou. The girl, Nicolaou said, “had a sense of accomplishment.”

Cassidy Hjelmstad, CEO and general manager of SRT Communications in rural North Dakota, described some of the issues that used to arise in towns without health care clinics.

“If you had to take a kid for a sports physical or if they get sent home for, perhaps a fever and you need to take them to the doctor, that’s parents taking time off work,” Hjelmstad explained. “They can’t just get up and leave town to take their kid, to drive 45 minutes to an hour.”

The solution was an e-nursing program operating out of rural schools that were unable to hire a nurse. The schools can use high-speed broadband to connect with a nurse in South Dakota, and connected devices in the school can be used to monitor vital signs to help the remote nurse diagnose a student’s illness.

Broadband Quality of Life

Other examples from conference panels about how high-speed broadband can improve rural quality of life:

  • PRTC helped establish “Living Rooms” in a local library with broadband connectivity where veterans can go to connect with a Veteran’s Administration hospital 90 minutes away.
  • Several Air BnBs have been successful in PRTC’s serving area, in part because they have high-speed connections. They have attracted people who want to get away from city life but still want to be connected.
  • Fresh vegetables can be hard to come by in rural North Dakota, especially in the winter. But SRT customers can use their broadband connection to order food from a large grocery store for delivery to local food lockers for pickup.

A replay of today’s sessions at the SRC event is available at this link.

Other Telecompetitor coverage about the benefits of broadband can be found at this link.

Tocia Johnson contributed to this report

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