Task force to remedy the dig­i­tal di­vide holds fo­rum

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News -

AN­NAPO­LIS — With a global econ­omy high-speed in­ter­net and broad­band ser­vice are the great equal­izer. How­ever, when re­li­able, af­ford­able high-speed in­ter­net is not avail­able, which is of­ten is the case in Mary­land’s ru­ral ar­eas, that equal­izer be­comes a bar­rier — a bar­rier to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for busi­nesses, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents, spe­cial­ized health care for pa­tients and in­creased ef­fi­ciency for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers.

On Wed­nes­day, May 24, the Re­gional Ru­ral Broad­band Fo­rum will be pre­sented by event par tners the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil and USDA Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment. The fo­rum will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gover­nor Calvert House, 58 State Cir­cle, An­napo­lis.

The fo­rum un­of­fi­cially kicks off the work by spe­cial task force en­acted by Mary­land’s Gen­eral Assem­bly. The task force, named the Task Force on Ru­ral In­ter­net, Broad­band, Wire­less and Cel­lu­lar Ser­vice, is led by Char­lotte Davis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil. Over the next sev­eral months, the task force will re­search re­dun­dan­cies and gaps in ser­vice and fund­ing op­tions needed to bring dig­i­tal eq­uity to ru­ral Mary­land. By Novem­ber the task force will re­port its find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions to Gover­nor Larry Ho­gan.

Nearly 200 Mar yland state and lo­cal of­fi­cials, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als and other stake­hold­ers will par­tic­i­pate in Wed­nes­day’s fo­rum. High­lights in­clude:

• In­vest­ing in Last Mile Ser­vice — How New York’s “Broad­band for All” ini­tia­tive is us­ing pre­vi­ously un­ac­cepted Con­nect Amer­ica Fund Phase II grant dol­lars to make sure every ru­ral New Yorker can ac­cess high-speed in­ter­net. Robert R. Puck­ett, Pres­i­dent, New York State Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion, will be the pre­sen­ter.

• Fund­ing Ru­ral Broad­band Ini­tia­tives — High­light­ing fed­eral fund­ing re­sources avail­able for ru­ral broad­band ini­tia­tives, pre­sented by Keith Adams, Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Pro­gram As­sis­tant Ad­min­is­tra­tor, USDA Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment; and

• Con­nect Amer­ica Fund (CAF) Phase II Funds: The Prac­ti­cal Chal­lenges — An over­view of how com­mu­ni­ties can sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tions in­ter­ested in us­ing un­ac­cepted Con­nect Amer­ica Fund Phase II grant funds to ex­pand broad­band ac­cess in un­der­served ru­ral ar­eas. This pre­sen­ta­tion will be led by Mike Ro­mano, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of In­dus­try Af­fairs & Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment NTAC, The Ru­ral Broad­band As­so­ci­a­tion.

“You would be hard pressed to find some­one who wouldn’t agree that pro­vid­ing af­ford­able, high­speed in­ter­net is im­por­tant no mat­ter where you live,” said Davis. “The real rub is how to make it hap­pen. Does it be­come a pub­lic util­ity? What is the base level ser­vice that ev­ery­one should have? All these ques­tions and more are cru­cial.

“Our goal through the new task force is to de­velop not only a plan, but also a way to pay for the ex­e­cu­tion of a plan. This fo­rum is the first step to this very im­por­tant work,” she added.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Re­gional Ru­ral Broad­band Fo­rum, call 410-8415774 or visit ru­ral.mary­land. gov.

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