Submitted by Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable and Public Service Commission Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how critical Wisconsin’s broadband infrastructure is for delivering basic services like education and health care. While students started Zooming into their classrooms, more and more patients utilized virtual services like telehealth for the first time last year. From March 15th to April 14th of 2020, telehealth visits increased 300-fold. Fifty percent of visits for seniors over the age of 85 were held via telehealth.
Yet, according to the Aging Connected report, people who are enrolled in Medicaid are 2.7 times more likely to be offline. Black seniors are 2.5 times more likely to be offline, while Latinx seniors are 3.3 times more likely. While telehealth became a necessity during the pandemic for our state’s aging population and those with disabilities, they faced the biggest hurdle to accessing it.
Rural Wisconsinites have also experienced difficulties associated with limited broadband access. According to the FCC, more than 430,000 Wisconsinites, who make up 25% of the state’s rural population, lack access to high-speed internet. This impacts small businesses, farmers, students, and others in our state’s small communities who are struggling to stay connected. Rural Americans are also more likely to be uninsured.