Photo of Ted Case“What do you want to do when the pandemic is over?”

I asked my children this question over the holidays and received answers that reflect their distinct personalities. My 12-year-old son wants to go musky fishing in Minnesota. My teenage daughter dreams of a trip to Disneyland.

Perhaps this wish list will change before the pandemic is over—but then, no one knows when it will be over. But it is coming, and as we ring in the new year—socially distanced and with masks—there is hope amidst all the suffering.

My kids have done their part during the pandemic, and they may be rewarded for their resolve during a challenging school year. But it is easier when you have easy access to broadband. Frankly, it is hard to imagine this year without high-speed internet. Nevertheless, many Oregonians are on the wrong side of the digital divide, which makes an almost intolerable year even more difficult.

Many of Oregon’s electric cooperatives offer broadband. Others are starting new ventures, such as the feature story on Coos-Curry Electric Co-op and Beacon Broadband. Yet as we string fiber to meet the needs of our members, some impediments remain, including obtaining easements that will allow us to get to the most remote members.

Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association will support legislation this session to streamline the easement process and still protect the landowners’ rights. This is one of the most impactful things the Oregon Legislature can take on to deploy broadband that does not involve spending millions of dollars. In fact, this bill does not cost a cent.

We look forward to working with legislators to pass this bill. Someday, this pandemic will be over, but the remnants of our new online life will make broadband even more essential. We simply cannot live without it. Unless, of course, you are on a Minnesota lake fishing for the elusive ling down Space
Mountain at Disneyland.

Ted Case
Executive Director