Saturday, January 19, 2008

California - Broadband

Report urges more broadband in California's rural areas
See also the full report

A task force formed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended Thursday that the Internet highway be extended into California's heartland. The California Broadband Task Force, in its final report, urged that affordable high-speed Internet be made available to all residents, but noted that 1.4 million rural residents lack broadband access at any speed.

The 21-member group, appointed by Schwarzenegger more than a year ago, urged the state to build out its broadband high-speed infrastructure as a critical component to the state's economic future.

Dale Bonner, secretary of the California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency and co-chair of the task force, laid out seven recommendations that when implemented "will create jobs, improve public health and safety and expand educational opportunities."

The report urges public and private partnerships to streamline permitting, greater broadband research and innovation, leveraging educational opportunities to expand broadband use, creating statewide e-health and government networks, and offering tax incentives for expanding broadband networks.

The report found that 96 percent of California households have basic broadband access, among the highest rates in the nation. But the Golden State lags in serving rural residents. Nearly 2,000 communities are still unable to access high-speed Internet and only half of Californians have access to broadband at speeds greater than 10 Mbps, the report showed.

Dave Roberti, a rancher in Loyalton, a small rural community in Sierra County, said the report shows the "great technical divide" between urban and rural areas. He resorts to a satellite dish for his Internet connection.

"There is so much more telecommuting going on with people wanting to get out of the cities and go to the rural areas, and then they don't have the Internet access, at least the high-speed access," Roberti said. "You can get dial-up. Yes, I think there is a real need."

Governor Schwarzenegger, who has made infrastructure improvements of roads, levees and water projects a high priority, applauded the report.

"Expanding broadband access keeps California competitive in a global market and stimulates our economy through job growth," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

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