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'I have little to no internet' | Families fighting for broadband in Monroe County

Beth Ellison said limited internet access is a barrier for her job, her daughter and many people in her county.

MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. — The FCC estimates that in rural areas nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population — 14.5 million people — lack access to reliable internet. Some sites track what that access looks like in states, including Tennessee.

For people in Monroe County, the thought of having no internet isn't imaginary at all. Beth Ellison teaches 8th grade at Vonore Middle School.

"This has been my classroom, and this is where I spend most of my days," she said as she raised her camera to show her laptop on a table. 

Ellison has little to no internet, along with many other people in her area, which makes teaching hard. Just last week she spent the day sending attachments to students who can't get a good connection either.

"One of them was a 17-page attachment to give to our kids who are in this area," she said.

She's also the mom of a college student who faces challenges too.

"When classes moved online she applied to stay because we don't have internet here," Ellison said. 

Belinda Allen feels Ellison's pain. She and her family also struggle getting internet access.

"We've found it difficult and trying, not having access to the internet here," Allen said. 

While her family has tried some solutions, those can have their own kinds of problems.

"We have a mobile hotspot through our carrier and sometimes it is even challenging trying to get that to work," she added.

She has a son in high school and when he can't connect to the internet, so he has to drive 20 minutes to other family members to use a reliable internet connection.

Ellis and Allen are not alone. Many of their neighbors are advocating for more internet access resources in the county as well. In the meantime, they are making the best of it, hoping that something will change soon.

"We think that internet is a fundamental when it comes to the education of our children, and we would like to see it come to our area," Allen said. 

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