I think we can all agree that the internet has become an essential part of our lives.

The increased accessibility of the internet has allowed doctors to reach patients, friends to reconnect, given our students more opportunities to learn, and workers more opportunities to live in rural America while working anywhere.

A recent report from the Federal Communications Commission stated that 97% of Americans in urban areas have access to high-speed fixed internet services. That number drops to 65% in rural America, which is unacceptable.

Increased access to internet can help our businesses, workers, students, health care providers, and local economies.

An online market exponentially grows a customer base, providing traffic and customers that likely would not be available to a brick-and-mortar storefront. Increased connectivity saves time and money and can bring increased profits to businesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Americans to work from home for over a year now, requiring them to have access to reliable and secure internet service. The increase in remote and teleworking in recent years has removed many obstacles that once stood between workers and their dream jobs.

Rep. Miller-Meeks Official Photo

Over the last year, we have seen many of our K-12 and college students distance learning. While I am looking forward to all of our students quickly and safely returning to complete in-person learning, it is also crucial that we understand the important role that distance learning can play in education. Moving forward, distance learning can help prevent sick students from missing class and allow students to reach educational opportunities that typically would not be available to them, especially in rural areas.

Telehealth and telemedicine would not be possible without increased broadband access. Rural clinics, doctors, and hospitals are able to quickly connect to and consult with providers and specialists at larger medical centers. Patients are able to receive quality and timely care no matter where they live, and we should be doing all we can to support them.

I believe that every American benefits from reliable, affordable, secure, and accessible internet service. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to address America’s broadband infrastructure in a bipartisan manner that benefits all Americans.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a resident of Ottumwa, represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.