"Many elections around the US this year are more closely watched and highly contested races than the typical midterm. With so much at stake, you’d think an issue that affects more than 24 million Americans would be easy pickings for campaign platforms.
Yet few candidates, from local mayoral races all the way up to the Senate, provide lip service to the fact that millions of Americans still lack access to broadband, and even fewer flesh out a robust policy to address it. At a time when politics is more divisive than ever, basic issues such as access to the internet are being overshadowed by the massive ideological clashes happening across the country.
“If you were to ask people what issues they’re voting on, first and foremost they would say ‘pro-Trump or anti-Trump,’” said Susan Boser, the Democratic candidate seeking to replace Republican House Member Glenn Thompson in Pennsylvania. “Next would be guns and abortion, then the needs of the area, which are jobs and the opioid epidemic.”
Boser told me a lack of access to broadband is a huge problem in her district, which is a large, predominantly rural swath along the northwestern edge of the state; its largest town, Indiana, has a population of less than 15,000.
Boser was one of only a handful of candidates I found who directly address access to broadband in their platforms.
“Throughout this particular district you will find access to internet confined to larger communities and there aren’t that many, maybe a dozen of them,” Boser said. “I’ve seen the impoverization of the area and a lot of young people leaving. We’re in trouble, quite honestly, and this is a critical piece of that.”
But Boser has found the issue isn’t top of mind for voters unless directly tied to its potential impact on the economy, which is how she tries to frame it: improving access to broadband would allow for more remote work opportunities, for example. Some other candidates around the country—in Congressional, governor, and local races—mention it in debates or media interviews, but haven’t made it core to their platforms, and many others simply haven’t addressed the digital divide at all."