Opinion: Covid-19 Exposes Urgent Need for High-Speed Internet Capacity

By: Bruce Wiseman, Commissioner

I’ve been one of your three Port Commissioners for over 20 years. During my tenure, there’s been a common thread to the work of my fellow commissioners and staff: building community resiliency to ensure a strong, economically healthy community.

While other agencies respond to emergencies such as fire, floods, public health issues, etc., we focus on developing infrastructure that helps deliver a strong economy and an environmentally healthy community. Then, should an emergency arise, our community agencies are better able do their jobs effectively, which benefits our citizens and our businesses.

Examples include advocacy for the improved I-5 interchange for safer and more efficient egress and ingress for Ridgefield, the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass that allows safe, predictable travel between Downtown and the Ridgefield Waterfront – critical in the event of some types of emergencies. And while we’re not there yet, several years ago the port embarked on the development of “dark fiber” to allow high-speed broadband providers to serve our currently under-served area. Working from home, telemedicine, education, keeping up with the speed (and need) of business – all these activities require high-speed, high-capacity bandwidth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the critical need for broadband. Ridgefield schools will be closed at least through April, WSU-Vancouver and Clark College have shifted largely to on-line classes, business and public employees are working from home. Each of these scenarios require high-speed internet that’s not currently available. This presents a challenge for students, patients, employers and others in our community.

Things happen. So, the stronger our community and the more resilient and responsive we are, the greater likelihood we’ll experience better outcomes in the face of unforeseen challenges.

At the Port, we’ll continue the push for broadband development because this critical infrastructure is necessary if we are to achieve robust community resiliency. For now, let’s work together to get through this crisis. We’re wishing you all good health.