Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/25/2005 - 11:49
West Virginia, just a few miles away from Blacksburg, has jumped to first in the nation with respect to intelligent, pro-community thinking about broadband.
The state legislature, unlike more than a dozen other states trying to cripple the ability of communities to promote economic development and to support existing businesses, is saying, "We don't want to do that."
Not only that, the state seems ready to give communities the tools they need to chart their own future. This article [link no longer available] has the details.
Here is evidence of West Virginia's sophisticated thinking:
David Levine, director of technology and transformation with the West Virginia Development Office, said creating a cohesive fiber optic network could create a competitive advantage and could help keep technologically inclined West Virginians from leaving the state to find work. "People will be able to work where they live," he said."
The bill would explicitly give communities the right to issue bonds to pay for telecommunications infrastructure--just as communities have done safely and securely for decades for other improvements like water, sewer, and schools. It would also explicitly give communities the right to act as a service provider.
A Verizon representative expressed skepticism over the bill. What a surprise--a phone company opposes competition. It's almost funny to see Verizon on the short end of the stick. I don't think they have expressed dismay in other states when last minute bills popped up that opposed community telecom projects. This second article notes that Ireland went from 18% unemployment to 3% unemployment because of an intense focus on telecom investments to support communities and open access networks. Ireland, which is about the size of West Virginia, has constructed a fiber ring connecting 123 towns and cities. Any service provider can use the network to deliver services.
Here's another quote that shows West Virginia legislators "get it."
Committee Chairman John Unger, D-Berkeley, said he and others did consult with Verizon, Adelphia and other companies, but he made no apologies for not releasing the bill to them before it came out of his committee.
"The special interest groups think they ought to see the legislation before the legislators see it," he said. "That's where everybody's got it backwards around here. They've got it backwards, because they think that the special interest group ought to draft the legislation and then show it to the Legislature, and that's not the way it should be."
The bigger question is why are so many legislators in other states falling for the contorted and misleading information being provided by the telcos and cable companies? And if Ireland has been successful in promoting economic development by building open access networks, why are our legislators seemingly dead set against it (except in West Virginia)?
So here's a slogan for you: "Our state--almost as good as Ireland and West Virginia."
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