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Can you hear me now? Residents describe Okeechobee County as 'digital desert'

Posted at 11:21 AM, Apr 26, 2024

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — This was a first for our WPTV Let's Hear It community meet-ups. Okeechobee County residents said they're living in a digital desert. It's not a topic we've tackled to this point.

I tested out the frustrations on a video call with a mom named Rebecca who lives in the area.

"It's already telling me my internet is weak, connected with you," she said. "Internet is a daily struggle to run my business, to communicate with people and even just cellular service inside is awful. don't know what the next step is to do. It's almost like a normal thing or us here that everyone has terrible internet."

It can become a safety issue, too. Rebecca pointed out her home security cameras go on and offline all the time.

I did find some solutions.

The Okeechobee County Public Library has reliable internet access, and it's available free of charge for everyone.

The library also offers free WiFi hot spots that can be checked out for two weeks at a time.

"It always surprises me when people I thought had good access at home are coming in to say - I've used one because I was traveling. I needed to grab one for my kid's homework assignment. We lost internet at home," said Denise Whitehead, the community services and tourism director for Okeechobee County. "Having a resource like this is hugely beneficial at our public library."

Whitehead said if the hot spot is not returned to the library within the two week timeframe, it will be shut off remotely.

You can learn more by clicking here.