A lack of reliable, consistent internet access has been an issue for many in Worcester for years, but the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing employees and students to work and learn from home, has put a spotlight on the issue.
With the final decision on Thursday to have Worcester Public Schools students learning remotely at least through November, and with some companies asking employees to keep working from home as the wait for a vaccine continues, internet access is among top concerns in Worcester this fall.
“This is not just an issue for our students trying to log into virtual classes. It’s an issue for our employees working from home, patients and doctors trying to engage in telehealth, even for court hearings, the wellness check for children and families that are court-involved,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said Thursday, speaking during a virtual forum regarding the city’s internet challenges, hosted by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. “Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury. It hasn’t been for a very long time.”
Earlier this summer, the research bureau published a report examining challenges the city faces with internet connection. The report pointed to a “regional monopoly, lack of infrastructure investment and a prioritization of profits over service,” as roadblocks for Worcester and suggested that municipal broadband could be the answer.
The report, citing U.S. Census Bureau data, determined around 67% of city households had a broadband