Selling an ambitious plan to expand high-speed internet across the U.S. became far easier after Covid-19 upended so many lives. The co-founders of Post Road Foundation no longer needed to explain to investors why remote learning and tele-medicine are vital services.
“All of that has become painfully obvious,” said Post Road’s President, Seth Hoedl, who founded the nonprofit alongside the longtime corporate-finance lawyer Waide Warner. “We didn’t have to explain the importance of kids taking classes at home.”
Their ambition: To structure creative financing partnerships to fund the delivery of affordable, high-speed internet to millions of underserved Americans.
Post Road’s mission could hardly be more vital, or more of the moment. Vast parts of the U.S.—more than 60% of its landmass and at least 30 million people—lack high-speed internet. Shoddy or non-existent service stunts educational opportunities and job prospects, and cuts one off from the greater world. The problem is largely but not entirely rural. Some of the neediest neighborhoods are in New York City, Detroit and Louisville.
Data shows that residents of underserved areas lag far behind in access to quality medical care, attainment of college degrees and annual earning power. The pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated these divides across the country and made access to quality internet service all the more important.
Poor communities fall between the digital cracks, just as they did nearly a century ago when vast swaths of the country remained unpowered by electricity. Commercial broadband providers stay away. Governments have done too little, too slowly. There are few financing options to pay for expensive, broadband infrastructure projects to serve poor and rural people.