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Red Oak mayor shares struggle for high-speed internet: 'We are losing people residing in our community'

Posted at 6:50 PM, Sep 27, 2022

RED OAK, Iowa. (KMTV) - — The need to connect is greater than ever, but the White House reports more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no proper broadband connection.

Why is it so hard for rural areas to get access?

In Red Oak, a charming community of more than 5,000 people, Mayor Shawnna Silvius recognizes its potential for remote workers interested in a slower pace of life. Since 2017, she's been working on getting the city connected.

"Educating people on the different types of connectivity, educating people on why it's important; when this was prior to COVID. COVID has really opened people's eyes on the impact bandwidth capacity makes," Silvius said.

The town has broadband service but here are the biggest issues she faces: many prospective residents considering a move to Red Oak, and those who are currently there, want fiber internet delivered to their homes. The key is making sure the service is affordable.

"And if we had that kind of dedicated service, so they could work from home and do any job from the country, it would really take off, I think," Red Oak business owner Joey Norris said.

To complete Red Oak's connectivity, local business owner Joey Norris says it would cost between $10 million and $15 million. The Mayor says there are almost 3,000 homes to still connect.

"As far as I would say now, in order for our entire community to get served we're probably looking at three years," Silvius said.

It's a hard reality for a forward-thinking leader; understanding brain drain will continue unless something shifts.

"We are losing businesses. We are losing people residing in our community. In order for people to gain that back and grow forward, we've got to do it," Silvius said.

The USDA also announced the department is awarding more than 500 million in loans and grants to bring high-speed internet to rural areas and businesses in 20 states.

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