CWA Members Organize a Town Hall on Expanding Broadband Access to All Communities in Arizona

Monday, April 18, 2022

Casa Grande, Arizona — Today, CWA members hosted a town hall meeting in Casa Grande, Ariz., with Democratic Congressman Tom O'Halleran and Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small to discuss the need for expanding broadband access throughout the state, especially to underserved communities. The event was open to the public.

“We are forty-five minutes or so down the road from the fifth largest metropolitan area in the country and we have very poor broadband,” said O’Halleran, speaking to the more than 30 attendees who were enthusiastic about the event and the prospects of broadband expansion in the state. He added, “People in rural America need to be part of the knowledge-based economy.”

Fernando Roman, CWA Broadband Brigade member and Executive Vice President of CWA Local 7026, also participated in the forum along with panelist Belinda Nelson of Gila River Telecommunications. Charlene Fernandez, State Director of Arizona Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was also in attendance.

“People fell behind. The [internet] speed wasn’t there. I saw that as a rural technician,” said Roman. “One of my son’s friends was sent home during remote learning and quit school because he didn’t have adequate broadband. This is the reality that COVID exposed. Thanks to the infrastructure bill, Arizona will receive a minimum of $100 million to address the unserved and under-served first.” Roman is a member of the CWA Broadband Brigade, a group of expert members from every district who are leading our multi-year program to regulate broadband at the state level.

“[I]f we are investing in high-speed internet across the country, rural communities cannot be left behind,” said Torres Small. “We have rural entrepreneurs needing access to the World Wide Web. Our children trying to learn and having access to research material for school assignments. Our senior citizens who live in remote areas and are trying to access health care services so they don’t have to travel long distances. Being able to bridge that gap is exciting.”

The CWA members in attendance expressed their shared excitement and gratitude for Congressman O’Halleran and the Biden Administration for making expansion of broadband access to rural areas a priority.

“It is always great to see our elected officials put the needs of their communities first and lead the charge to change the unfortunate reality that so many of our neighbors are facing,” said Shad Ercanbrack, President of CWA Local 7026. “This event has reenergized my fellow CWA activists and community members to advocate for more internet connectivity for all communities regardless of their zip codes. We are extremely grateful for the work the Congressman and Administration officials have done and look forward to continuing to work together to get this done.”

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About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields.

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