Improving internet service could boost South Putnam
CRESCENT CITY – The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all aspects of life and working remotely has become a normal routine for many people.
However, rural Florida counties face internet troubles people in urban areas don’t encounter.
Crescent City Mayor Michele Myers said she has seen growth in the city and hopes to see broadband internet in South Putnam as employees move to online work. She has seen residents relocating from urban areas such as Orlando, but the lagging internet could still be a hindrance to people considering relocating to South Putnam.
“Some of the people relocating here are either retired or about to retire, and some of them are working remotely, actually, and not able to have dependable internet service,” she said. “(It) hurts all of us.”
Myers said she spoke to a resident who did not have internet for two days and feared job loss as a result.
“The great thing about (broadband) is that as our internet improves, that also brings a younger generation here. Young professionals would be coming here because they would be working remotely,” she said.
Working to improve rural broadband has been a priority for state Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka. He said COVID-19 brought forward the importance of improving Putnam County’s internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission gave Florida internet providers $191 million in December to improve rural broadband, but no money has been distributed to Putnam County yet.
“You have to look at what broadband does in rural communities. Since we’ve been remiss in broadband, this past year of school for kids has been a perfect example,” Payne said. “Broadband would bridge that gap for in-class learning as opposed to virtual learning.”
He also said broadband could help medical professionals conduct telehealth visits, meaning health care workers and patients use “digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely,” according to Mayo Clinic.
He said the lack of internet access creates a rural divide between counties and it needed to be improved.
“There’s nothing about (broadband), in my perspective, that’s not good,” Payne said. “I know that Putnam County would benefit from it completely.”
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