Giving thanks for broadband especially during this very strange year

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s been a strange year – and a year that has deepened the divide between the broadband haves and the have-nots. Over the summer, I spoke with folks in several communities about the role of broadband in dealing with COVID19. The experience is all over the map.

Having broadband is the difference between taking free online music classes through MacPhail or doing homework through paper packets sent from the school. It’s the difference between everyone working from home or trying to sneak into the quarantined office. It is a life changer as we prevail over shut downs, stay-at-home orders and pauses.

Today I thought I’d look at the difference broadband makes to me and my family this week:

  • I am able to work. Last night I uploaded almost 20 hours of past radio shows on SoundCloud; I can upload a one-hour audio file in the time it take for me to choose an image for the file. The bottleneck for getting 20 hours of audio uploaded is my attention span.
  • While I was uploading files, my daughter was watching her one of her Civics classes. School has been entirely online for her since March. It’s not easy, it’s not fun but I can’t imagine it without sufficient broadband. Thankfully we have enough bandwidth. In our house, “I’m on a Zoom” means no loud music, no walking through in PJs. It doesn’t mean don’t get online. We can easily accommodate multiple video applications. Truthfully – you should see the MacGyver set up it takes for me to record the MN Broadband Task Force meetings! My computer connects to the meeting, my phone livestreams it to Facebook where I can save and archive it. It’s not perfect but it means we have access to those meetings.
  • Today we will do a Zoom call with my daughters at school in Canada, sister (and family in Chicago) and the rest of us in the Twin Cities. All of us have the broadband we need. All of us have devices we need. All of us have the skills to do it. It won’t cost anything extra for us to stay connected. In my 20s, I often lived overseas. My dad told me once that the long distance phone bill rivaled the mortgage those years I was gone.
  • Aside from family, I’ve already heard from friends around the world. It doesn’t take a lot of broadband to make that happen but it takes ubiquitous broadband – even beyond the far corners of Minnesota.
  • Tomorrow I will start holiday shopping online. I hate shopping – I have been thankful for links to exactly what the girls want for years. I’m delighted that more local and specialty stores are online now, because while I may not like shopping, I do want to support the local economy.
  • Tonight I have a list of online concerts I could attend. Is it was fun as going to club? No, but like shopping it will be a chance to keep the local music and arts alive for a time when we can enjoy the music together.

So those of us in the have world – can take a moment to be thankful for broadband. The ability to connect with family and friends is priceless as we battle COVID.

And maybe we can think about how to get everyone online – because if you look at my list it includes opportunities to produce and consume. To maximize Minnesota’s economy we’re better when we are all online!

This entry was posted in Broadband Applications by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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