News From PCCA...

On October 20, several partner organizations announced the launch of the American Connection Project (ACP) interactive Wi-Fi map (www.americanconnection.io). PCCA is a member of the ACP, which is working to bring high-speed internet access to all households, with a focus on those in rural areas.

The new map provides a free resource to help the public locate more than 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations across 49 U.S. states. The map includes Wi-Fi locations from Land O’Lakes, Inc. and its ag retail owner network, along with several partner organizations including 4-H, CentraCare, Compeer, Kentucky Farm Bureau, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Polaris, Inc., the Public Library Association, Tractor Supply Company and Watch Communications, and support from Microsoft and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Today, 18 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet--most of them in rural communities. Further, roughly nine million K-12 students and 400,000 public school teachers living in both rural and urban communities lack reliable internet access required for learning. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted health care usage causing telemedicine visits to reach an all-time high as patients seek to avoid exposure at health care facilities.

The Wi-Fi map is an extension of efforts undertaken by the American Connection Project to drive meaningful progress toward closing the digital divide to create opportunities and reduce digital inequality for rural and urban communities in the United States. The map is designed to provide immediate but temporary access for those Americans who lack access to the internet today.

“The launch of the American Connection Project map marks an important milestone in our effort to bring critical services to disconnected communities across America--and a resource for individuals to find broadband access when they truly need it,” said Tina May, Vice President of Rural Services at Land O’Lakes, Inc. “We are enormously grateful for the ongoing commitment of our partners in banding together to advocate on behalf of rural communities throughout a difficult time across our country.”

PCCA Chairman John Fluharty is urging his fellow members to take up this cause. "During our first meeting with Land O'Lakes, they told us how blown away they were that so many people showed up when they set up their first Wi-Fi access location--patients talking to their doctors, kids doing schoolwork, workers linking to their jobs," he said. "They're looking for more people to help with the project, and they have provided a best practices guideline and an acceptable use policy for guest Wi-Fi access (you can access these documents at www.pccaweb.org/publications/broadband). I hope everyone, PCCA member or not, to get involved."

Throughout the next several months, additional locations will be added to the map. The American Connection Project searchable Wi-Fi map can be accessed at www.americanconnection.io/.

About the American Connection Project: Millions of Americans go without broadband internet access—most of them in rural communities. The American Connection Project fosters long-term digital inclusion in support of vibrant and thriving rural communities. Efforts include raising awareness about the critical nature of connectivity; advocating for meaningful policy reform and broadband investment; and, taking decisive action to provide connectivity options where they’re needed most. Land O’Lakes is convening organizations and leaders from across the country in this critical time to build strong rural communities positioned for competitiveness and connection now and in the future. More information can be found at AmericanConnectionProject.com.