Digital divide

Kyle Hicks sat at his computer at his Lancaster-area home, the homework assignment for his College Credit Plus course due in a few hours. He knew he was cutting it close.

Like a vast number of people in rural areas of Ohio and the rest of the nation, Hicks and his family have limited access to high-speed internet. The one company that provides broadband service where he lives promises connection speeds “up to 5 megabits per second,” but he says tests on the line show it’s rarely above 1 Mbps. What’s more, service in his area, even at that level, is expensive.

Satellite broadband could be an option but costs even more.

Cooperative leaders sit around a table talking with Senator Sherrod Brown

Co-ops go to Washington

The 2016 elections demonstrated the influence of rural voters — and, therefore, let elected officials know in no uncertain terms to pay attention to the needs of rural America.

While the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has a team of government affairs professionals lobbying Congress every day, local cooperative leaders make an annual trek to Washington, D.C., every April so those federal policymakers hear directly from folks from their district or home state.

Marc Armstrong, director of government affairs for Ohio's Electric Cooperatives, appears on TV next to a landscape of a farm.

Connecting city with country

Electric cooperatives have a long history of providing service where there was an unfilled need. It’s a story that especially resonates with Patrick Gottsch.

In the late 1990s, Gottsch, then a sales executive for a successful livestock auction, looked at cable television lineups around the country and noticed something missing: there was no rural-focused programming anywhere on the dial.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan listens to a point during a meeting with leaders from Ohio electric cooperatives during the 2018 legislative conferences in Washington, D.C.

Farm bill front and center

Ohio electric cooperative leaders joined more than 2,000 of their counterparts from around the country in April to discuss legislative and regulatory concerns with members of Congress at the 2018 NRECA Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference, held annually, allows co-op leaders to build relationships with policymakers that improve their members’ lives every day.

Broadband and prosperity

The internet has changed the way people live and work around the globe. Access to the internet is the emerging essential utility service. In larger cities across the U.S., there’s no concern that high-speed access is available via cable providers, cellular networks, Wi-Fi, and other broadband channels. However, throughout much of rural Ohio and rural America, high-speed internet access, commonly known as “broadband,” isn’t available.