Governor Ned Lamont announced Tuesday he plans to introduce legislation with the goal of making broadband internet more accessible to Connecticut residents.
From education to healthcare, people have become more reliant on internet access during the pandemic than ever before. Addressing that need, Lamont says high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury.
“You used to think high-speed internet was about your kid downloading video games fast,” he said. “(Now) it’s an essential service you need to survive in the 21st century.”
According to the governor’s proposal, which he plans to submit to the Connecticut General Assembly in February, the initiative has several key goals. They include increasing access, reducing costs of building out broadband systems and establishing better consumer protections.
“If the governor is doing that, that would be a blessing for everybody in the community,” said Hector Negron of New Britain.
Negron has a son in college. His classes are online, and Negron is trying to provide the necessary technology but it’s difficult.
“Right now, the internet prices are so high that I can only afford the lowest (level) of the internet,” Negron explained.
Negron though can provide what some others cannot. According to the governor’s office, a 2018 survey found that 23% of Connecticut residents did not have internet access.
Some technology issues have been addressed. Federal CARES Act funding, combined with contributions from the Partnership for Connecticut, helped supply 142,000 laptops for Connecticut students. Without broadband though, some say that is not enough.
“Without connectivity that device is a brick,” said Guilford Superintendent of Schools Paul Freeman. “Without the ability to connect from home that device is not going to be complete.”
In addition to education and work from home needs, supporters of the bill also say the increased use of telemedicine has also made broadband essential, especially in the area of behavioral needs.
“I don’t want to see anyone lose their life because they didn’t have access to the internet, to get the help they needed, during a crisis,” said Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council Member, Kelly Phenix.
Among the specific concerns of the governor is addressing the broadband challenges of urban, suburban and rural areas. Without that, Lamont says, “the state will not have equitable access for all and achieve the economic recovery that we need.”