HOLLISTER, Mo. — Using the internet is no longer an option for most Americans now, it is a necessity.

Service can be slow or nonexistent, especially in rural areas of the country.

Missouri is not only one of the worst states in the U.S. for internet service in rural areas, 27% of all rural areas in the US lack broadband services.

This is compared to only 1% in urban areas.

And now with the statewide stay-at-home order, it’s more important than ever.

“With the whole COVID-19, it’s become more and more apparent that you have to have connectivity to understand what’s going on in the world,” said Nathan Stooke, CEO of Whisper ISP.

“Being a smaller town, they think that just one provider would do,” said Tami Rolens, a Hollister resident, “but sometimes there’s a lot of people like friends who live out in the country, and the only thing they can get is the AT&T mobile hotspot. Right now, with us being out of the gym, we’re trying to do some online video courses for the children, sometimes I have trouble getting mine to stay on.”

Rolens also has two daughters who need the internet to go to school right now.

“For a fourth-grader, that’s really hard to be able to do her work at home when the internet doesn’t work,” Rolens said, “it takes her pretty much all day. And she has ADHD so for her to sit through that all day long is really hard.”

She’s thankful that Wisper ISP, an internet service provider will be expanding broadband service to rural Missouri, saying “the kids would be able to get their work done, and I have to spend all day on the computers so they will be able to be outside a little bit more.”

Stooke said with internet access, rural communities can also participate in 21st-century businesses.

He says he’s already heard some success stories.

“He says, my son moved back to the family farm because you provide internet. And he could get on our family farm,” Stooke said, “and now I get to see my grandkids every day, I see my son every day. I had another lady come up to me and said, well, my daughter works for a high-tech company in silicon valley, but she lives here in town because she can get your high-speed internet.”

Stooke said it will take about three to four years for all Missouri communities to receive service, “which sounds like a lot, it’s like oh my goodness I can’t wait for four years to get service, we’re going to do our best to accelerate it as fast as we can.”

Also a few weeks ago, President Trump signed the Broadband Data Act into law, which helps make sure federal broadband programs are using accurate data and up-to-date maps.

This will help close the digital divide between urban and rural communities.