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Monday, April 12, 2021

Gainesville has the highest cost of internet in the state of Florida.

On Thursday, in an effort to change that, the City Commission voted to create a new subcommittee dedicated to expanding affordable, high-speed broadband internet to Gainesville residents.

Expensive internet access — and the high percentage of residents still without it — made this subcommittee a necessity, said Bryan Eastman, the co-founder of Connected Gainesville, an advocacy group attempting to expand internet in the community.

Eastman said high costs, alongside other factors, are preventing about 15 percent of Alachua County residents from accessing the internet.

“We’re living in the 21st century, where we connect to the world through the internet,” Eastman said. “We need it for jobs, we need it for education, we need it just so we can keep up with the rest of the world.”

Connected Gainesville conducted a study to highlight the issues surrounding the lack of internet access in the city, Eastman said. According to the results, accessing broadband internet in Gainesville costs $1, 055.76 a year. Additionally, according to a Pew Research study, about 44 percent of U.S. adults believe the government should provide broadband “subsidies” for low-income Americans.

“I hope the city moves forward on this and makes a bold action that will make it so we can have affordable internet access for everyone in our area,” Eastman said.

District 4 City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos will serve on the subcommittee alongside District 2 City Commissioner Harvey Ward and District 3 City Commissioner David Arreola. Hayes-Santos said his main focus on the subcommittee will be to explore options on how to lower the cost of internet.

“A lot of people in our community can’t even afford (the internet),” Hayes-Santos said. “In today’s day and age, internet is not a luxury — it is a necessity.”

He said the commission has been looking into this issue for about a year now. He added that he’s hopeful the cost of internet will decrease in the near future so more residents can afford and access it.

“I think we’re going to be able to take real steps,” Hayes-Santos said.

Contact Catie Wegman at cwegman@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter: @catie_wegman

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