MN Voice Part of White House Broadband Forum
Thursday, May 27, 2021
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Access to high-speed internet received more awareness during the pandemic, mainly for its impact on students trying to navigate distance learning.
Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a virtual listening session on the digital divide affecting many parts of America.
A Minnesota woman, who is a college student and mother, was able to relay her story to the White House this week.
Amanda Schermerhorn, federal legislative advocacy fellow for Lead Minnesota, a recent graduate of Minnesota State Community and Technical College and mother of four, talked about her balancing act, which included helping her kids with remote learning, while also trying to manage her online classes.
"I found myself hiding in my car on my mobile hotspot, often, trying to do my work while my kids were on their Zoom classes, or even in the parking lot of my closed college campus," Schermerhorn outlined.
Schermerhorn plans to further her college career and work as a civil-rights attorney. She emphasized her family was able to persist.
Advocates for expanding broadband access say such examples are too common. The Biden administration proposed $100 billion in broadband funding in its infrastructure plan. And while boosting access has bipartisan support in Congress, Republicans have said the overall public-works plan is too large.
Schermerhorn pointed out her family's rural setting has played a large role in their inability to stay connected at a level that meets their needs.
"We don't have fiber-optic cables running through our home," Schermerhorn explained. "They run under the road near our home, but that's nearly two football fields away."
In addition to federal plans, Minnesota leaders have discussed spending as much as $70 million on broadband infrastructure as part of a state budget framework. Some lawmakers representing rural areas say they would like to have seen legislative leaders agree to higher totals.
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