Lack of broadband access is leaving many Ohioans behind
In my time as the President/CEO of the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce, I have seen how important it is for employers to be able to hire the skilled workers they need to help their organizations and our community grow. As a member of ReadyNation, I am part of a network of business leaders who support smart policies that put kids on the right track early in life, so that they can reach adulthood with the skills that our economy demands.
Right now, we aren’t hitting that mark. Research shows that children who start out behind often stay behind. The educational attainment and employment levels of their parents are often major determining factors of a child’s starting point but establishing exactly how and why some children start behind is a complex question.
One significant piece of that puzzle is a so-called “digital divide.” Especially at a time when remote learning is more important than ever, a major barrier to academic and employment success is the lack of a broadband connection. This digital divide leaves children behind their more connected peers in school, and it makes distance learning impractical for working adults without access. More than 300,000 households, representing close to one million Ohioans, currently lack reliable broadband access.
The future workforce and economy of Ohio depend on our state equipping all students with the skills and credentials they need. Approximately 65 percent of Ohio jobs will require a postsecondary degree, credential or certificate; yet, fewer than 50 percent of Ohio adults have reached this level of attainment. Broadband access is a key component to delivering educational resources to meet this goal while also opening up communities to greater employment opportunities.