Forum, June 6: Upper Valley Should Band Together for Broadband

Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Band Together for Broadband

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans still lack access to what is classified as high-speed internet. This problem is familiar to residents of the Upper Valley, but many may not realize that we faced a similar issue in our national past. Into the 1930s, 90 percent of rural homes lived without electricity. The 1936 Rural Electrification Act addressed this problem by offering loans to build electrical infrastructure. This program sparked local initiative, and many farmer-based cooperatives formed to apply for these loans. By 1952, more than 90 percent of U.S. farms were equipped with electricity.

Today, the Upper Valley and rural Americans nationwide are presented with a similar solution. The USDA offers a Rural Broadband Access loan, available to both internet service companies and community co-ops. This program should interest residents of the Upper Valley because we understand our communities in a way that the federal government simply cannot. The FCC rolled out its National Broadband Plan in 2010, but as late as 2017 an FCC commission member approached the public in Keene, N.H., to ask for help in simply updating the broadband map so that efforts could begin.

As many as 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires internet access, so students who can’t do work at home are left to fall behind. This achievement gap will only widen with the internet-based nature of today’s college applications and job searches. Co-ops can be used again to bring opportunity back to our communities. It is time for the Upper Valley to band together for our children, our economy and our future.

Olivia Harvey


Trump Reopens Arctic to Exploitation

We just returned from Washington meetings with staffers of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. Our discussions centered on oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and in the adjacent Arctic Ocean. Bipartisan concerns for these sensitive arctic ecosystems and the lifestyles of the indigenous people who live there led to the earlier enactment of strong federal legislation protecting them.

Such discussions with our legislators would have been immaterial before President Trump took office because both areas were legally “off-limits” to oil exploration, and oil companies were reluctant to fund expensive efforts on the largely unknown reserves there. Oil shale development in the lower 48 states and technological advances in renewable solar and wind energy have rendered unlikely substantial economic returns from drilling in the harsh climate conditions in these areas of problematical access.

Enter the Trump administration.

Last December Congress passed and the president signed into law the GOP tax reform bill. The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” represents the largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in U.S. history, which may significantly increase the federal budget deficit and, hence, our national debt. Those two results would normally be anathema to fiscal conservatives.

In an effort to address those two concerns, GOP legislators at the last moment inserted into the “must-pass” act a rider that not only allowed drilling in the fragile coastal plain of the Refuge but mandated it under an expedited leasing process. Additionally, a 2017 executive order by President Trump reopened the Arctic Ocean to exploration and exploitation; that executive order is being challenged in federal court.

Bipartisan efforts are underway in both the House and the Senate to repeal the rider. Shaheen and Welch merit our appreciation for their support of the repeal effort.

Denis Rydjeski and Betsy Eldredge

Springfield, Vt.

Losing Respect for Phil Scott

In response to the VtDigger article “Lawmakers and Scott at Odds,” published in the May 30 Valley News, I would like to say that Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has lost my respect. Scott appears to think that it is the lawmakers who have created this budget mess, but he is the one who will not budge, nor negotiate. What happened to the Phil Scott voters voted for, who used to respect his colleagues in the Legislature, and now will not abide by their decisions, nor negotiate with them?

Scott is good with the slogans, but not so good with the math. His acting like “it’s my way or  the highway,” is not indicative of a good leader. Vermont deserves better.

Char Osterlund

Springfield, Vt.

Sununu Should Veto Voting Bill

Why is New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu waffling on HB 1264? This bill would make it harder for eligible young people to vote in November. Months ago, Sununu claimed that he didn’t like HB 1264, but recently he has declared that if the New Hampshire Supreme Court decides that it’s constitutional, “it would be hard not to sign it.”

But constitutionality is a requirement, rather than a reason, for a bill to become law. The people of New Hampshire deserve a governor who clearly states his position and rationale, rather than shrugging off responsibility for decisions that are his to make. Disenfranchising eligible voters is wrong. Concerned citizens should call the governor’s office (603-271-2121) urging him to commit to vetoing this terrible bill.

Elena Turevon