Executive Director Drew Clark Testifies Before House Telecommunications Committee

Testimony of

Drew Clark, Executive Director – Partnership for a Connected Illinois

Before the

 House Telecommunications Committee

April 7, 2011

  

Good morning, Chairwoman May and members of the Telecommunications Committee. 

The deployment and adoption of high speed internet services and information technology has resulted in enhanced economic development and public safety for Illinois’s communities, improved healthcare and educational opportunities, and a better quality of life for Illinois residents.  Continued progress in the deployment and adoption of high-speed internet services and information technology is vital to ensuring that Illinois remains competitive and continues to create business and job growth.

Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known as BroadbandIllinois, is a 501c (3) non-profit organization with a three-fold mission: (a) to collect and publish broadband data; (b) to ensure broadband access throughout the state; and (c) to maximize broadband’s impact and use. 

The PCI is the non-profit association authorized under the High-Speed Internet Services and Information Technology Act (Public Act 95-684, enacted in 2007) through a contract with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The Act sets forth the goals of the Illinois’ high-speed internet deployment strategy:

  • Ensuring that Illinois residents and businesses have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet service; 
  • Improving technology literacy, computer ownership, and high-speed internet use among residents and businesses;
  • Establishing local technology planning teams to plan for improved technology use;
  • Establishing and sustaining an environment that facilitates high-speed internet access and technology investment. 

At PCI, our activities are based on General Assembly’s findings that these efforts will result in enhanced economic development and public safety for our communities, improved health care and educational opportunities, and a better quality of life for Illinois residents.

BroadbandIllinois works in partnership with the State of Illinois to ensure that Illinois remains competitive and continues to create business and job growth.

BroadbandIllinois also works collaboratively with broadband providers and local leaders to ensure their communities benefit from high speed internet access.

Illinois has had the foresight to advance investment in broadband technology and is beginning to be a model for broadband deployment.

Many areas are well-served by existing broadband and telecommunication carriers.  And in many places, particularly larger cities, there is robust competition.  However, businesses and service providers are just beginning to scratch the surface on how broadband internet service can be of benefit to them economically and from a health and safety standpoint.  Our efforts are therefore also focused on ensuring that communities in Illinois understand how they can maximize the value of this technology in ways that create jobs, enhance services and reduce spending.

We are also beginning to see competition in some of our smaller communities.  For example, where Verizon previously chose not to provide broadband service, its successor, Frontier, is now ambitiously offering competitive options.

In many areas of the state, however, there is a lack of what we call middle-mile fiber. You could liken this middle-mile fiber to electric transmission lines that serve a variety of electric customers through investor-owned utilities, municipalities and electric cooperatives.  Each has a role in transmitting bulk quantities of electricity to electric utility systems throughout Illinois.  Some of these electric providers would not exist without the foresight of elected officials who created the Rural Utility Service or pioneers in municipalities who wanted their residents to enjoy the benefits of a electricity for their homes and businesses.

Just as we know electric service enables commerce to develop in our communities and state, so too will broadband internet service. 

Historians recognize that Abe Lincoln once exhibited a passionate interest in infrastructure improvements as a means to overcome obstacles to equal opportunity and commerce.  Broadband infrastructure and deployment is the mission of our time.

Broadband Illinois has helped coordinate a number of public and private partnerships with a goal of filling the gaps necessary to link our communities to the rest of the nation and, indeed, the world.

Allow me to share but a few examples of how Broadband Illinois is working with local leaders to enhance the quality of life:

  • In the northwestern part of the state, Northern Illinois University is working with community leaders, schools, healthcare providers and public safety officials to install 870 miles of fiber that will be available for broadband deployment.

 

  • In southern Illinois, Clearwave is installing 740 miles of fiber that will connect communities in 23 counties.  This investment in broadband infrastructure is deemed vital to the future success of Southern Illinois University and promises to revitalize the economy in the southern region of our state – creating opportunities that otherwise might not have been envisioned.

 

  • In far southern Illinois, the Shawnee Telephone Company serves among the most disadvantaged areas of the state in terms of health care and economics. Many of its schools no longer offer options like foreign languages or chorus or band.  The closing of coal mines has taken its toll on these communities.  Imagine the difference broadband can make with the installation of fiber optic cables, which promises to bring distance learning and advances in health care to help the region achieve prosperity once again. Broadband infrastructure in Gallatin, Pope and Hardin Counties can equate to prosperity and progress in these communities and has the potential to  lead to new economic development opportunities.   

 

  • The Connected Living program in Cook, Kankakee and Will Counties is offering internet training to citizens with disabilities and seniors so that they may participate in commerce, on-line learning, help manage their utility bills and become more involved in community and government activities. 

 

  • The Smart Communities Program is a joint venture of the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Community Trust to promote comprehensive technology adoption among 270,000 residents and small businesses in five pilot digitally-underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

Each of these efforts requires the involvement of public and private stakeholders, with the goal of ensuring that our state’s broadband infrastructure remains competitive and enables our state to successfully compete with other states. 

Of course, our objective is for Illinois to lead the nation, through the vision created by you as members of the Legislature, and to ensure that our citizens – your constituents – benefit from broadband and technology advancements that otherwise might not be available to them.

 

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Tags: Drew Clark, House Telecommunications Committee, Illinois Broadband, News Release

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