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Senator Murray Helps Celebrate New Telecommunications Technology in Forks

Jul 07 2004

Murray joins in video conference, ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate increased opportunity for education and business in Clallam County

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Yesterday, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) participated in a video conference and ribbon cutting with the West End Technology Center in Forks, Washington. Murray delivered remarks, after which she joined the Forks attendees in a simultaneous "virtual" ribbon cutting. The event was attended in Forks by community leaders, citizens, and some of the students and business people who will benefit most from the facility.

"The fact that we can see and hear each other right now – from all the way across the country – is a testament to the great things we can accomplish when we work together to recognize and meet needs in our state," Murray said to participants in Forks. "It is just the kind of catalyst for economic development, better education, and greater opportunity that you told me you needed."

Murray supported the appropriation of an $89,000 federal Economic Development Initiative Grant that allowed Forks to purchase the facility, remodel it, and also to document the process used to pursue telecom infrastructure improvements. The West End Tech Center connects rural communities to the World Wide Web, providing opportunities for better education and economic growth. With this innovative technology, small business owners have access to potential customers worldwide. The center also provides students with computer skills training and job seeking opportunities.

Murray has been a strong advocate for improved access to telecommunications and high-speed Internet in rural areas of Washington state. Allowing communications from coast to coast, the conference was an example of how the Center introduces innovative technology to rural communities around the state.

Murray has worked in Washington state and in Washington, D.C. to increase access for small and rural communities. In 1999, Murray assembled her Statewide Rural Telecommunications Working Group, which is comprised of 20 community and business leaders. This group helps identify and create possible solutions to small and rural communities' telecommunication needs. She has also organized conferences throughout the state to help remote communities to the business world.

In the United States Senate, she wrote and introduced the Community Telecommunications Planning Act, which provides $60 million annually in technology planning grants to rural and underserved areas. She co-sponsored the Broadband Internet Access Act, which encourages companies to build broadband in rural areas through the use of tax credits. She also co-sponsored the Broadband Expensing Act, which encourages companies to invest in broadband by allowing them to expense the cost of their investments in broadband infrastructure.

"A gap in access is a gap in opportunity," Murray said. "We live in a state that's home to some of the best and brightest in the world when it comes to innovative technology. I believe we can – and should – make that technology available to communities throughout Washington."

Senator Murray's Remarks follow:

I'm so sorry I couldn't be in Forks with all of you today. I was there touring this facility only two years ago, and I knew at the time – as I do now – how important the West End Tech Center is to Forks and the surrounding communities. I wish I could be with you today as well, but using this technology to participate really is the next best thing.

The fact that we can see and hear each other right now – from all the way across the country – is a testament to the great things we can accomplish when we work together to recognize and meet needs in our state.

And that's exactly what the West End Tech Center does – it meets needs.

This facility will serve as an incubator for local businesses, and will help connect residents to the World Wide Web. It's just the kind of catalyst for economic development, better education, and greater opportunity that you told me you needed. Small business owners will be able to use the center to help grow their businesses, and they'll soon have access to potential customers around the country – and the world. Students of all ages will also be able to access opportunities they didn't have before, and the Forks Integrated Network committee will provide computer skills training and job seeking opportunities. I've been so glad to help rural communities in western Washington strengthen local economies by building up communications infrastructure.

We live in a state that's home to some of the best and brightest in the world when it comes to innovative technology. I believe we can – and should – make that technology available to communities throughout Washington. That's why I've been working in the Senate to break down barriers that deny high-speed access to residents of our rural communities. A gap in access is a gap in opportunity. So I'm working to pass legislation that helps close the gap. Let me tell you briefly about three of those pieces of legislation.

First, I spoke with leaders and residents in our rural communities, and they told me they needed greater support for their efforts to plan upgrades in telecommunications technology. So I took their suggestions and wrote them into a bill – and I introduced that bill in the Senate. It's bill number S. 1294, the Community Telecommunications Planning Act, and it provides $60 million annually in technology planning grants to rural and underserved Areas. Second, I co-sponsored S. 905, the Broadband Internet Access Act, which encourages companies to build broadband in rural areas through the use of tax credits. And third, I co-sponsored S. 160, the Broadband Expensing Act, which encourages companies to invest in broadband by allowing them to expense the costs of their investments in broadband infrastructure.

So that's some of what I'm doing in Washington, D.C. I'm also working in Washington state to increase access to telecommunications in rural areas. I've organized conferences all over our state to help link communities like yours, as well as Wenatchee, Bremerton, Colville, and Walla Walla to the business world. These conferences bring together economic development officials and high-tech providers to help improve high-speed access.

And – when local leaders told me they needed help getting access to high-speed telecommunications – I assembled a working group. The 20 members of that working group help identify the needs of small and rural communities, advise me on possible solutions, and keep me informed of the progress we're making for Washingtonians living in rural areas.

The City of Forks has been a key partner in my working group's efforts. Forks' leaders have recognized just how much residents stand to gain when they have access to first-rate facilities like this one. You've shown great leadership in making this Center a priority. And I was proud to do my part by supporting an $89,500 federal Economic Development Initiative Grant to make this project happen. I'm thrilled that we're working together to improve quality of life in Forks – and the communities around it.

This center has brought you the kind of telecommunications systems and connectivity that let your businesses keep growing, and let your children keep learning.

I'm so glad to have worked with you on this facility, and I’m going to continue to work – in Washington, D.C. and Washington state – for these kinds of projects.