Wide-spread adoptionof affordable high-speed Internet can be a key tool to rejuvenate laggingeconomies and sustain state commerce. It is estimated that widespread adoption of high-speed Internet will add$134billion to the U.S. economy annually and create 1.2 million new jobs per year. Further, high-speed Internet can be keyto drawing new businesses to an area, no matter how remote or small. As evidence of the impact of high-speedInternet on individual communities, a recentstudyfoundthat for every 1% point increase in state high-speed Internet penetration,employment is projected to increase by 0.2% to 0.3%. Further, the availability of high-speed Internet incommunities added over a 0.5%increasein the growth of business establishments.
Wireless and wired technologies allow municipalities to offer a means to bridge the digital divide. Communities are now building their own wired and/or wireless “Community Internet” systems, using fiber optic cables or unlicensed space on the public airways to provide dependable high-speed Internet connections to homes all across America.
Municipalities seeking to provide affordable high-speed Internet to their residents have had to deal with special interest legislation at the state level designed to shut down municipal networks. In an effort to stifle competition and protect their profits, service providers are pushing bills in state legislatures that would prohibit communities from setting up high-speed Internet networks, prevent competition and undercut local control--even in rural and low-income areas not currently served by large providers. More than a dozen states now have laws on the books restricting cities and towns from building their own high-speed Internet networks.
Strengthening the national network of community technologycenters will create real-world technology training for the nextgeneration. CommunityTechnology (CT) is the purposeful use of computers, Internet, and digitalcommunication systems by non-profit and community-based organizations toenhance the delivery of mission in a way that helps people develop technologyliteracy skills through beneficial, hands-on interaction with technology.
Some states such as California, Illinois,NorthCarolina andOhio, have established a fund or council to address the digital divide. WashingtonState has recently taken aggressive steps to increase digital literacy.The Washington State legislature allocated $500,000 to supportWashington's Community Technology programs. SenateBill 6438 created a statewide high-speed Internet development process andestablished the Community Technology Opportunity Program (CTOP) that willprovide resources for capacity-building forand grant-giving to Community Technology programs that provide hands-ontechnology access and training to residents. Additionally, the legislationdevelops a high-speed Internet deployment and adoption strategy through amulti-sector work plan, as well as a statewideweb directory of Community Technology programs will be developed.