Idaho works to boost broadband in rural areas as the state continues to grow

Posted at 2:41 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 12:00:26-04

Idaho is seeing a population boom.

According to data from the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho had the fastest-growing population in the nation between 2019 and 2020. Nationwide, there are 3,093 cities with populations larger than 10,000. When those cities are ranked based on their percentage growth between 2019 and 2020, eight of the top 200 fastest-growing cities are in Idaho — Kuna (43), Post Falls (46), Star (55), Eagle (65), Meridian (70), Nampa (151) Ammon (167) and Caldwell (171) — all with growth rates ranging from 7.5% to 3.5%.

The population growth, combined with the rise of remote work and learning during the pandemic, has brought broadband access to the forefront of discussion. Eric Forsch, the Broadband Development Manager for the Idaho Department of Commerce, says limited access in rural areas has made both remote work and remote learning a challenge in some parts of the Gem State.

"I think that pinch point really made it clear to a lot of people across the state that maybe we need better bandwidth and we need to invest more in this and improve the infrastructure in the state," Forsch explained.

Forsch and his team have been working to boost broadband access in Idaho's rural communities for a while now and say there has been great progress. Now, he's hoping more communities get involved.

"Here's the opportunities to make sure your community is more resilient and continues down the path and allows people who want to live there have jobs and different types of jobs and make sure the community is strong and healthy," Forsch said.

Boosting broadband has been a consistent effort on both a local and national level, especially over the past year. As Idaho News 6 reported, a program launched back in May through the Federal Communications Commission could make nearly one-third of Idahoans eligible for discounted broadband internet service.