The technician was a nice fellow. He looked at the box outside our house. He identified a couple of problems and said he’d get us hooked up. He left and for a few hours, I thought things were looking up for our Internet service — still slow, but at least not constantly cutting out.

Nope. The Internet was out again a couple of hours later. I texted the guy. He texted back that while I was paying for a download speed of six megabytes per second (mbps), I was on a line that could reliably handle only three mbps. He said if I switched to three, then the disconnections should stop. I did exactly that the next day, asking the lady on the phone to cut my speed in half so maybe at least we could stay connected without constant interruptions.

Nope. It still disconnects all the time. Errggh!

Many of you probably know my frustration quite well. This is life in rural America — terrible Internet.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a broadband Internet connection has a minimum download speed of 25 mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 mbps. I constantly run Internet speed tests at my house. It is frequently around .7 mbps download and .1 mbps upload. This is certainly not “high speed” as I’m told by an automated voice as I grip my landline phone, which I can’t shed because of poor cell reception and an unreliable Internet connection.

Let me cut straight to it. Here’s the quick fix I want. It’s not that difficult, but it would mean some businesses winning over others. Why not let power companies run broadband everywhere they have power poles? Why can’t Jackson EMC serve me Internet? Why can’t we declare the Internet a utility and treat it like electricity?

Money. That’s why. There is huge money at play from companies with a real stake in the status quo. But that can’t continue to rule, not with such a public need being ignored.

I don’t care who wins in terms of which company prevails. Do you? Lawmakers need to fix this for the public. Just make sure rural citizens ultimately win with good Internet. We are so far behind urban residents in this way and that needs to change. Rural America is increasingly at a disadvantage to cities in this way. Our current choice is not cutting it. And modern life requires us to have access to the Web to conduct more and more business.

That’s especially true in this ongoing coronavirus crisis, when we need to be able to connect for school and work more than ever.

We also need a feel-good story. We need a story that unites Democrats and Republicans. We are so torn. But this is one topic we could truly join forces and push for something better. Make some calls. Be vocal about it.

There are always opportunities for positive change in times of crisis. And it will be a real shame if the billions in federal funds that are going in so many directions aren’t used to bring rural America up to speed with urban America on the Web. At a local level, Madison County shouldn’t be so far behind Athens in this way. Right?

I can’t accept a continued lack of substantive action on this. Internet access is indeed as important as water or sewer infrastructure for the future of this county. Local resolutions should be drafted. Demands should be made. Discussions should be frequent among local leaders about possibilities. This is a lingering Madison County problem that should absolutely get fixed in this crisis. Yes, of course, money talks. And money is controlling this issue. But that’s not the only power in this country. And things don’t get fixed unless people really speak up. There should be an organized effort to change this for this county. Madison County needs it. Right?

There, that helped. Rant over.

Think I’ll go pick up a book now. I know it won’t freeze up mid sentence.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at zach@mainstreetnews.com.

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