TMCnet Feature
August 05, 2020

Richard Galvan and Sonia Galvan on Rural Broadband: Why it Is Necessary to Expand and Improve Internet Services in Rural Areas

High speed internet, known as broadband, is an integral and daily part of the lives of Americans. Yet, there are many Americans, especially in rural communities, that do not have access to such a luxury.

Richard and Sonia Galvan, owners of G5 Internet Services in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, are trying to right this wrong through the internet services they provide. Their company, G5 Internet Services, has been in operation since 2008. They offer streaming services to those who do not have it in residential, commercial, and state and local governments. Overall, they serve a 95 square mile radius with over 21 towers. They provide their insight into rural broadband and explain why it is necessary to expand and improve internet services in rural areas.

Why Rural Broadband is Essential

When people think of rural broadband, they fail to realize the severity of the situation. It is all too easy to think that the reason a rural community is demanding better internet and cell phone services is for their own personal use. While this is part of it, and is certainly something people are entitled to feel, there are a whole host of other reasons why rural broadband is essential to the wellbeing of a community, and thus the wellbeing of our country. Richard and Sonia Galvan of G5 Internet Services touch on these different reasons below:

  • Health: Hands down the most important reason why expanding and improving rural broadband services is so important is because it can impact the health of a community. Remote medical services, otherwise known as telehealth or telemedicine, are a necessity in rural areas where the nearest hospital might be over an hour away. It is also even more important since the COVID-19 pandemic, as it’s much safer to stay at home and also better for the health care system in order to not be overloaded. Yet these rural communities, those that need it the most, often have the least amount of access to telehealth services. These services might include virtual doctor’s appointments, patient monitoring, or consultations. In order to increase life expectancy and improve healthcare outcomes, improving broadband services is necessary so that rural communities can receive the remote medical help they need.
  • Education: Second to health is education. Schools and universities rely on technology to teach students. Now more than ever, due to the coronavirus pandemic, learning institutions have been forced to shut their doors and all teaching is being done online. However, many schools failed to take into account that students living in rural areas might have a difficult time doing their work virtually due to the internet or lack thereof that they have access to. According to a 2017 congressional report entitled “America’s Digital Divide,” there are over 12 million school-aged children in remote rural areas that do not have access to broadband at home. This inequality, if left as is, will continue to contribute to a serious achievement gap, whereby students in rural areas continue to fall behind academically until it’s impossible to catch up.

Richard and Sonia Galvan on Ways to Expand

According to Richard and Sonia Galvan, the owners of G5 Internet Services, there are several different ways that municipalities, states, and even the country as a whole can work to expand and improve rural broadband services.

First, developing a digital infrastructure strategy for the rural areas of the United States is key. The only way of doing this is having telecommunications providers, rural communities, and agricultural stakeholders work together to create a clear plan and vision for the future. Any plan of this kind must include specific strategies and set targets, to ensure that any rural infrastructure built, such as providing internet and cell phone services, meets the needs of all Americans living in rural areas and can be sustained in the future.

One goal that Richard and Sonia Galvan believe should be a part of any digital infrastructure strategy is for all rural American households to be able to access 25 Mbps broadband internet service within a specified (ideally short) period of time. This is not only something that is long overdue in these communities, but it is necessary if the United States wants to remain competitive with its other trade partners. Part of this strategy also needs to include local, state, or federal governments doing a comprehensive assessment of the dramatic gap in service availability and capacity between urban and rural areas.

Finally, Richard and Sonia Galvan believe that in order to ensure expansion, a funding body dedicated specifically to rural broadband expansion needs to be established. Too often, the budget for expansion and improvement is a part of a funding mechanism that is responsible for not only expanding and improving, but also for maintenance of the existing services. What ends up happening is that very little if any of the budget actually ends up going towards expansion as so much of it is eaten up by simply maintaining the poor service already offered. Thus, the Galvans see a separate funding entity as the only way to ensure rural broadband expansion is a priority and that something actually gets done about the broadband internet service disparity between urban and rural communities.

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