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Editorial: Bridging the digital divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the digital divide and the lack of fast, reliable broadband service for rural areas comparable to what large cities currently have.

From teleheath services to operating businesses online, the need has only grown since social distancing and closures have been in place to the virus.

And there is nowhere that the need is more apparent than with schools in remote learning.

As we looked at earlier this year, the disparities exist in Lawrence County, with more rural districts severely underserved by broadband companies and virtual learning made difficult.

That’s why it was welcome news that the Ohio Department of Education is ending $764,000 to Lawrence County schools to provide hotspots and Internet-enabled devices to students for the 2020-21 school year.

These funds will be put to good use. Chesapeake, which is receiving $151,466, is doing classes remotely the first nine weeks, with a possibility of extending that further.

And Symmes Valley, where officials told The Tribune earlier this year that only 15 percent of students have reliable service at home, making it one of the most severe cases, will get $93,909.

While the larger problem still needs to be addressed in the long-term, and local leaders are working on the issue, it is good to know that the state is investing in improvements that will give students here a better chance to have the same opportunities as other parts of the country.