When your grandma lives in a rural community and the power goes out

Some of you will know this story – or one very similar well – if you do, you should take a minute to tell your story to someone who can make a difference. Like your local representative, senator or county commissioner. This story is a wake-up or reminder for folks who don’t spend time in rural areas or worrying about loved ones in rural areas.

My friend’s grandma lives in rural Wisconsin. For folks outside of the Midwest – we’ve had had some weather this week: 50+ degrees on Wednesday (in MN in December!), 12 degrees the next morning with a couple of tornadoes in between. So grandma’s power is out. And so is her phone. I point out that if she has DSL that the phone needs electricity and won’t work. (We want to make sure it’s a tech issue not a billing issue.) The provider is a telephone company. So I figure it’s DSL. Nope, actually grandma doesn’t have internet access at all.

The power is back on, according to the electric company but my friend still can’t get through by phone. Only getting the busy signal. My friend will spend the day trying to get some tech out there or seeing if she can reach a neighbor or calling a high school friend to check on her grandma.

I suggested that maybe grandma should get a prepaid cell phone (burner phone) for Christmas. Well, that won’t work because there’s no cell coverage where she lives.

That’s a glimpse of communications – broadband, internet, phone, whatever – as lifeline. Something I forget from my home in St Paul. Something I hope we all remember when we’re spending down the federal dollars for infrastructure – let’s invest in these areas and invest in a way that doesn’t leave grandmas a generation behind the times in five to ten years and something that doesn’t leave grandmas out in the cold when the weather gets bad.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Rural 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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