"Our world is changing rapidly and no community should be left behind," said Murray. "High-speed Internet access can enrich our lives through activities like distance-learning and they can save lives through efforts like telemedicine. But the key is access. That's why this bill is so important."
Senator Murray's Community Telecommunications Planning Act would provide rural and underserved communities with grant money for creating community plans, technical assessments and other analytical work. Specifically, the grant program would assist communities by:
- Encouraging broad community involvement in the planning process, including active involvement by K-12 students;
- Focusing on the needs of a wide range of community interests, including education, health care, and local businesses; and
- Helping to identify potential solutions for those needs through an advanced telecommunications technology.
"But before areas can take advantage of some of the help and incentives that are out there, they need to work together and go through a community planning process. Community plans identify needs, assess demand, create a vision for the future, and show what all the players must do to meet the telecom needs of their community."
Senator Murray has been a champion for helping underserved and rural communities gain access to high-speed Internet services both in Washington state and nationwide. She cosponsored the Broadband Internet Access act of 2001 and the Rural Broadband Enhancement Act to encourage companies to build broadband technology in rural areas.
Murray has also hosted a series of "Regional Telecommunications Conferences" in Spokane, Wenatchee, Colville, Bremerton, and Walla Walla to bring together local and community leaders, high-tech executives and government leaders to share information, success stories, challenges and strategies to ensure that all communities gain access to advanced telecommunications services.
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Murray in introducing the bill.