A recent study presented to Joplin City Council shows where there are gaps in terms of households and businesses that can afford or access Internet services.
This suggests that many residents find it difficult to use the Internet. In particular, 71% of Joplin residents have high-speed internet access, well below the national average of 87%. About 13% of residents surveyed said they couldn’t afford the products that would connect them to the internet. Another 10% said they had no internet at all, but relied only on their cell phones to connect. Almost everyone – 98% – said internet options in Joplin are too expensive.
If the data itself doesn’t give you pause for thought, this statement from one of the researchers might. Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting, the North Carolina-based company that performed the analysis, put it bluntly, “Joplin is not sitting here ready for the future.
The internet plays a central role in our ability to live, from the way we work and go to school, to how we can receive medical treatment. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic – which forced us individually to self-isolate, even if it was temporary – has shown us that the internet is an essential tool that is increasingly valuable to the way we operate in as a society.
How is Joplin going to grow and prosper if it is not prepared to better accommodate this service, which has gone from a luxury for the few to a basic need for all?
The report proposed solutions that would carry a range of prices and achieve a variety of goals. We don’t think a clear path for the city is needed right now, but something should be decided in the next few years if Joplin is to be ready for the future.
The study is the result of a steering committee appointed by city council that established internet access as the top priority if Joplin was to join the Smart Cities initiative. Whether or not the council opts for a smart city designation, the committee has been smart to prioritize this issue and put it at the forefront of our conversations about how best to bring Joplin into the next decade.
Now, City Council would be wise to continue these conversations, keep this issue as a priority, and explore all possibilities to improve Internet access, reliability and affordability for residents.