As we move into a new year, we have to address the dismal state of communication infrastructure in rural parts of the state. Looking back on the fires in Oregon and California, many of the resulting fatalities can be ascribed to the inability of emergency services being unable to communicate with residents because of the lack of phone coverage. While the telecoms are rolling out 5G service in cities, vast areas of our community have no cell signal whatsoever. It is not unusual to receive text message 2 or 4 hours after being sent. This could be devastating in a rapidly spreading fire, or other emergency.

Concurrently, the availability of internet connections are sporadic at best. While cities have fiber connections, other areas are relegated to dial-up or DSL, at dismal speeds, with frequent dropouts, or no connection whatsoever. It is inexcusable to have children huddled outside downtown businesses trying to complete their homework, while teachers are unable to upload lessons. The recent COVID-19 stimulus bill provides substantial subsidies to low-income families to help pay for internet connections. However, these subsidies are useless if there is no connection available.

Rural residents deserve the same access to communication as city dwellers.

Juris Sarins, White Salmon