AARP is Fighting For High-Speed Internet Access for All

As a retired NASA engineer and technology enthusiast, Ron Schlagheck is grateful for a fast Internet connection at his rural home near Winchester, Tenn.

“I like to have access to information,” said Schlagheck, 73, a volunteer for AARP Tennessee whose career involved managing international teams that oversaw repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope and delivered scientific payloads on Skylab, Space Shuttle missions, and the International Space Station. Lately, he’s helped AARP make the case to Tennessee legislators that they need to expand access to broadband – another name for high-speed Internet.

“We have so many rural communities that have very limited access to the Internet or none at all,” he said.

Across the country, AARP staff and volunteers like Schlagheck are working to build awareness of the potential for broadband and are convincing policymakers to find solutions to Internet coverage gaps – the so-called Digital Divide – that are prevalent in many places, especially low-income communities. Experts say these areas are often the last to get broadband and often at slower speeds, leaving people in these communities at an ongoing disadvantage.

Access to affordable, reliable, and truly high-speed broadband access has the ability to improve equity and make communities more livable for all. While broadband is a burgeoning advocacy topic, it’s an ideal one for AARP, says Coralette Hannon, who coordinates the association’s work on state and local telecommunications advocacy.

“Home broadband, whether it’s through mobile devices or home computers, holds especially promising opportunities for older people,” Hannon said. “Broadband helps keep people socially connected, but it also enables access to healthcare services, entertainment, distance learning, telehealth, and other activities that contribute to successful aging.”

Here’s how:

  • In Alabama and Texas, AARP offices are working with community leaders and state legislators on strategies to bring high-speed Internet to rural and farming communities, among other places.
  • AARP Illinois played a key role in the development and adoption of legislation signed on Aug. 13 by Gov. Bruce Rauner that creates a task force to explore ways to expand broadband access.
  • In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez last year signed two AARP New Mexico-backed bills designed to extend high speed Internet access to rural and underserved areas of the state. And this year, Martinez signed more Internet-access legislation that AARP New Mexico worked to pass, including a measure to bring broadband to public, tribal and school libraries.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed an AARP Tennessee-backed bill in 2017 allowing electric cooperatives to provide broadband and video service and funded the effort with $45 million in grants and tax credits.
  • This summer, AARP Indiana filed comments urging state regulators to bring down barriers to broadband access, particularly the lack of Internet access in rural areas where service providers have been slow to deploy affordable service. In its filing, AARP Indiana called for using public monies to bring “ubiquitous broadband service.”Ambre Marr, an advocacy director for AARP Indiana, says the broadband advocacy ties to AARP’s support for age-friendly, livable communities and efforts to promote healthy lifestyles. “We want people to stay in their communities and have access to health care,” she said. “And why would they stay in their homes and communities if they can’t be connected.”
  • AARP West Virginia has worked for several years on broadband access and fought this year for legislation to allow cooperatives to form and to provide the service. Angela Vance, who leads the state office’s advocacy efforts, said much of West Virginia, has obstacles to bringing broadband, including rugged terrain and low-income areas. “We see a critical need,” said Vance. “We see the opportunity for telehealth and all these technologies of the future that can help with caregiving. These types of services are never going to come if the whole town doesn’t have high-speed Internet.”

While AARP has championed many successful efforts to boost awareness and access to broadband, the work will continue so that we can ensure that every household has access to truly high-speed Internet service.

Would you like to volunteer with AARP? Visit  aarp.org/getinvolved

.

To stay up to date on our work in your state, and nationwide, sign up for our e-alerts AARP Advocates e-newsletter, follow me on Twitter @roamthedomes, or visit your state Web page. 


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents.  That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.