Wednesday, December 17, 2014

HB 14

Kelly McCarthy
Creating broadband development fund through bonding


  1. Marcy Allen, Executive Director of the Bitter Root Economic Development District, on Feb. 9, 2015:

    I write in support of HB 14. In our community we have been looking at ways for local government to help accelerate the deployment of broadband in our region. We consider broadband to be the railroad or electricity of our era, it is the way that we conduct commerce. Without sufficient broadband our communities will not be competitive. HB14 would be a significant step in ensuring Montana communities have the basic infrastructure to be competitive now and into the future.

    Broadband is essential for healthcare, education, business, and local government. Healthcare will rely more and more on high speed broadband. The trend towards preventative care and self monitoring will require connectivity and much of the development in the healthcare industry is around self monitoring mobile applications. Also many hospitals are using that data collected to reduce risk and better serve their patients. Many rural hospitals rely on telemedicine as a way to provide holistic care for the area residents, while being cost effective. Rural healthcare will remain challenging, but can be aided by ensuring high speed connectivity at an affordable rate.

    Broadband will play a significant roll in how our education systems work now and increasingly in the future. It is recommended that our schools have 1 gig of connectivity per 1000 students by 2016. Schools within Missoula city limits do not have this, and schools beyond the city limits are often worse off. For instance Frenchtown school signed a contract with a provider and is not getting close to what they were promised. When their computers update, the whole schools broadband screeches to a halt. Woodman school which is 20 minutes from Missoula connectivity is so bad their students have a hard time taking standardized test. Increasingly schools are using blended learning which will allow students the world at their finger tips, but will require high speed internet access.

    In regards to our Higher Education Institutions, students are demanding seamless integration with resources on and off campus. On the University of Montana Campus, only about 20% of the students live on campus. There are also ways to help Montana students across the state have access to basic core classes while remaining at home, reducing cost and making education more attainable for all Montanans. In order to do these we need to ensure high speed connectivity.

  2. (Part 2 of the message relayed by Marcy Allen, Executive Director of the Bitter Root Economic Development District, on Feb. 9, 2015):

    Broadband connectivity is also important to technology commercialization, people expect to have access to the broadband speeds they had on campus. We have limited resources in place for companies to commercialize in this state, leaving us often less competitive to other locations. Making sure that affordable high speed broadband is available is one thing we can provide.

    In our region we found an array of businesses that rely heavily on broadband to operate. These are not just high tech companies, these are abatement businesses, business that rely on skype meetings to operate, and even the timber industry relies on broadband from the cutting on the tree to the exporting. Farming industry is becoming more high tech and relies heavily on technology to help increase production. The basic idea of economic development is to increase wealth in your community by selling goods outside of it. In order for our business to remain competitive we need access to high speed broadband, in the same way we invest in roads and rail for commerce.

    A state entity that could help advise, educate, and guide the deployment of next generation broadband (fiber) in our state would be a significant benefit. While the funding is essential, we have found through our efforts that simple by coordinating efforts, understanding our issues, and aggregating our demand we can make significant headway in aiding private sector deployment of next generation broadband. We are looking at developing broadband standards, developing joint trenching agreements, and changing policies that are roadblocks to deployment. The state could play a similar role on a larger scale.

    Technology is changing at a rapid pass, investments today will ensure our competitiveness tomorrow. I urge you to vote yes on House Bill 14, ensuring Montana remain competitive in the future.


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