Rural Roanoke County residents ready to bridge broadband divide | Govt and Politics

“On the grander scale, you have children out there who have so much potential… you have to give them the bandwidth,” Alvarez said. “There are people out there who have a real need for this stuff, and now we’re starting to see that more so than ever.”

The internet is an easy platform, accessible to all ages, for people seeking any solution: new knowledge, a sympathetic eye, connections with far-off friends, telemedicine and so much more, Alvarez said as examples. He is often amazed what internet uses his 82-year-old mother finds when he phones in — now using broadband — to his hometown of Bronx, New York.

“I met my girl, my wife-to-be, on the internet,” Alvarez said, emphasizing that two people in their 50s found each other on a dating site. “We met, we hit it off, and we’ve been going strong for a long time.”

Other surfers still await web waves

Even with more of its rural households now connected — and soon connecting — to high-speed internet, there are still Roanoke County neighbors in need, like John Newman, a homeowner in the Bottom Creek community.

“My business, as do many, has become more internet-dependent over the years, especially during this last year and a half or so. It was just vitally necessary,” Newman said. “I need to download a lot of data, and I need to upload a lot of data. How fast that happens is critically important.”