(WYMT) – A significant downturn in the coal industry led rural areas to think about how they could reimagine the region and come together. With the coronavirus pandemic, that same question is still being answered.
Since the pandemic began many changes have happened–big ones. People working from home and students switching to remote learning which has led to highlighting the lack of internet access not only in rural areas but across the country.
One major difference? Is how different areas of the world are responding. To companies in Eastern Kentucky, the challenge of internet connectivity is nothing new.
SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, is a strong advocate for providing not only internet access to all areas of the commonwealth but for it to be affordable.
“Always looking for opportunities despite the challenges and circumstances,” said Joshua Ball, Associate Executive Director of SOAR. “Collectively as a region we realize that connectivity can open our rural communities to the global and digital economy and it’s already happening.”
With 3,000 Kentuckians working remotely from home, it is proof that Appalachia is already ahead of the game.
“While other parts of the country are looking at is as something that a community needs or a group of people needs, for us it is a part of a very comprehensive strategy that we are using to create a brighter future in the region.”
Working with more than 250 partners to make that possible they have changed the game for those who are working from home and students who have switched to remote learning.
Expanding the conversation to the increasing need for stronger internet connection.
“We have come along way and I think it’s important that we celebrate the progress that we’ve made because those successes are going to help us write the chapters ahead of us.”
Using local companies right here in the mountains to make that possible.
“I have a local company that I can pick up the phone and call. I’m talking to a neighbor, I’m talking to someone that I went to school with, I’m talking to someone I run into at the grocery store,” said Ball.
Local companies like TVS Cable and Thacker-Grisby in Knott County.
“With all the different types of services that are available obviously fiber of the home is the most attractive. That is the one you would like to have because of the dependable service.”
However in rural areas, it is just about impossible to provide it because of the cost. That is were the pride of the mountains comes in.
“We are real proud of that, that we are able to offer it even when the big cities have not gotten there yet.”
Where fifty percent of homes have access to that service. Just another example of how Appalachia is moving forward.
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