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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Fed funding helps OR address barriers to internet access

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024   

Oregon is working to address the state's digital divide with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.

Infrastructure presents the largest challenges for connecting people in Oregon to high-speed broadband internet.

Nick Batz, director of the Oregon Broadband Office, said there are more than 170,000 residencies in the state with no or slow internet access.

"Our goal through the broadband office and with all our stakeholders throughout Oregon is to provide access to all 112,000 unserved locations and as many of the 60,000 underserved locations as we can," Batz explained.

The state has received federal funding from a variety of sources, including nearly $690 million from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, and more than $150 million from the Capital Projects Fund approved in the American Rescue Plan Act from 2021.

Oregon's Digital Equity Plan has also been approved and along with it, nearly $10 million in funding.

Bandana Shrestha, state director of AARP Oregon, said there was a time when high-speed broadband internet was considered a luxury.

"Now, it's such a big necessity for everyone, including for older adults," Shrestha pointed out. "Because we know that if you don't have connectivity, you're not going to be able to see your doctor when you want to. Telemedicine is not going to be possible."

Batz added his office is working to ensure every Oregonian can get on the internet.

"It is an interesting challenge," Batz observed. "Nothing has been done like this in Oregon's history of trying to get internet access to everybody. So, it's going to be quite the challenge and it's absolutely going to require participation from everybody to make this happen."

Disclosure: AARP Oregon contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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