Internet contract represents big win for all of North Idaho

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Mike Kennedy

High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Broadband brings educational opportunities, drives economic growth, creates jobs, and is a fundamental aspect of the modern economy. But the need for high-speed broadband is still unmet.

We at Intermax Networks are focused on closing the digital divide between urban and rural areas and help serve areas in north Idaho that have historically been underserved.

Because of that, last month we were awarded $11.5 million over 10 years from the Federal Communications Commission in an auction to expand rural broadband in Kootenai, Bonner, Benewah, Boundary and Spokane counties.

Economic development

Rural communities need faster internet — period. People who reside outside cities have been at a disadvantage, and rural counties have struggled for access. This funding will help open the door for north Idaho startups and companies to compete for jobs by attracting businesses that need broadband to operate.

Idaho’s overall average internet speed ranked last in the country in 2017, according to a study by Broadview Networks. That fact alone hinders economic development. Intermax, working in the areas funded by the FCC, will greatly improve that performance in the Panhandle.

Education and lifelong learning

Schools use technology every day in the classroom. Internet access gives teachers more flexibility, allowing for individual instruction, utilizing apps and programs that let students learn at their own pace, and do their own research.

But right now there are teachers that have to be careful about assigning homework that requires students to go online, because many rural students can’t download materials at home. Homeschoolers too often struggle for modern access to online learning materials. We are working to fix that.

Education extends beyond the traditional classroom from pre-K to college degrees and continuing education. Most educational programs now offer an online component which can help rural students living hours away from the nearest campus.

This expansion of Intermax broadband aims to make it easier on parents, teachers, and students all over North Idaho.

Health care and quality of life

Access to and quality of health care can be a real problem in rural areas. Telemedicine is here, but the benefits don’t matter when people can’t access it. Providing high speed internet can empower senior citizens and people with disabilities to live independently, increasing their participation in economic and civic life, and reducing the cost of medical care.

Intermax and the tech culture of North Idaho

I’m proud that our locally owned and operated company was able to stand tall with the big multinational firms when it comes to winning funding support from the FCC. The people we hire, the technology improvements we benefit from, and the expansion of broadband all serve to lift the culture of technology and entrepreneurship in our community.

Intermax has invested millions in our network already. Having a partnership with the FCC will allow that to go faster. We’ll be able to provide new jobs and new tower construction opportunities while we provide more capacity for our customers.

A rising tide

You’ve heard the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats.” As we improve the access to high speed for our rural neighbors, the economy and access to opportunity for all of us in North Idaho will benefit.

• • •

Mike Kennedy is president of Intermax Networks in Coeur d’Alene. Contact: mkennedy@intermaxteam.com

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