WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema today called for expanded broadband access for rural communities during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Sinema advocated for rural Arizona communities that face a disproportionate gap in technological access to stay connected.
“The ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural communities makes it difficult for rural Arizona to attract new companies, deliver high-quality healthcare, and offer world-class education for its kids,” said Sinema. “Beyond education, broadband services can facilitate access to health care, job training, and economic growth. Rural counties well connected to broadband have higher incomes and lower unemployment rates than counties with less connectivity.”
Sinema also highlighted the challenges facing students in communities that lack reliable broadband.
“I recently met with representatives from the Black Mesa Community School, a pre-K to 8th grade school located on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona,” said Sinema. “For students at Black Mesa, most days start with a three-hour long bus ride to school down a 120-mile, mostly dirt road. Many times, their bus gets stuck in the mud, turning three hours into five or six – however long it takes for a tow team to arrive. While there is certainly a need for improved transportation infrastructure in parts of Arizona, broadband infrastructure is one way to ensure these students have access to the educational resources they need at home, when rain or snow makes getting to school on that dirt road nearly impossible.”
Today’s remarks followed a Commerce Committee hearing in February on 5G connectivity where Sinema shared the concerns of Arizonans living in Sunscape, an RV resort in Pinal County, who lacked reliable cell service. The residents could not reliably call 911 in the event of an emergency. Sinema underscored that in the conversation around 5G connectivity, all Arizonans must have reliable 3G connectivity. Shortly after the hearing, Verizon Wireless confirmed they would build a cell tower to service the residents of Sunscape.
Sinema is focused on making sure Arizona’s rural communities are afforded the same opportunities to stay connected as urban areas.