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Closing the Digital Divide, By Skyler Ditchfield, GeoLinks CEO

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The following is an opinion editorial provided by Skyler Ditchfield, GeoLinks CEO:

As schools across the country are forced to close due to the threat of coronavirus infections, a familiar theme, and one that my company is dedicated to solving comes to mind. I'm referring to the Digital Divide that is ever-present, not always seen by those with high-speed connection, but all-too familiar to those without.

Across the country, mostly in rural markets that do not have the fiber infrastructure often utilized for high-speed broadband, homes, schools, libraries and even hospitals operate with a lower degree of connectivity than their urban neighbors. With the recent outbreak of coronavirus affecting the globe, many schools have had to make the difficult decision to close their doors for indeterminate timeframes.

In some fortunate cases, students are still able to access their learning environments through online class portals. In many other cases, including quite often in rural markets with low connectivity, students are losing out on similar opportunities to learn while their schools remain closed. If a school does offer online learning modules, many of its students do not have the home internet access necessary to interact in these portals, highlighting an aspect of the unfortunate phenomenon known as the "homework gap."

I have firsthand knowledge of what it's like living in a rural market with severely limited connectivity. Growing up in rural Ojai, Calif., my family and many like us had limited options when it came to internet connectivity. Situations like this create a very real disadvantage for children. When youths grow up with instant access to a world of information at their fingertips, they understandably don't fully grasp the advantage that it gives them. When children grow up without that connection, they are very well aware of the roadblocks that the lack of connectivity creates.

My cousin, Ryan Hauf and I started GeoLinks in 2011 with a very simple but profound mission; to connect people to information. As we've continued to grow and be recognized as one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America, our mission has evolved, but the core premise remains. As a company we are dedicated to closing the digital divide that so many people, especially children, are living with every day.

This is why GeoLinks is a proud member of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), promoting government policies and programs that enable these institutions to obtain open, affordable, high-speed broadband connections to the internet. It's why we partner with the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) to provide schools, libraries and research sites in underserved communities with broadband at 50 to 100 times greater speeds than they previously had access to.

Our commitment to closing the digital divide was a key factor in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) decision to entrust GeoLinks with approximately $88 million to deploy high-speed broadband network facilities to rural areas in California and Nevada over the next ten years. These areas are not unlike the rural Ojai of my childhood, or the underserved communities of today that are forced to endure limited to no connectivity, creating greater disadvantage across the digital divide.

It is our mission to connect these areas to a world of information with fiber-fast connection. It is our hope that even when schools are forced to keep students away from their physical learning environment, they will have the option to connect with them in a digital classroom.

About the Author: Skyler Ditchfield is the CEO of Camarillo, Calif.-based GeoLinks, a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. He is widely considered a national thought leader in closing the digital divide, sitting on a broad array of national boards and coalitions working to bring greater internet connectivity to underserved markets. Learn more at GeoLinks.com.

About GeoLinks: Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked on Inc. Magazine's Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America three-years running, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

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