A directive from Governor, Ted Strickland’s office named Congressman, Zack Space to the State of Ohio Broadband Council. Space’s appointment to the steering committee, brings the number of Appalachian representatives up to three. Stan Ahalt, and Gary Little are also on the research team. Space is the first sitting member of Congress to be asked appointed to such a council seat.
“I am honored that Governor Strickland has invited me to join on this Council,” Space said. “We have made some great progress in Southeastern Ohio toward bringing broadband to everyone, and I am sure I can bring my experiences to the statewide effort,” Space stated in a news release. “Governor Strickland knows as well as I do that the future of Ohio’s economy depends on our ability to compete in the modern, high-tech economy. If we do not have this infrastructure in place, there is no question that we will be left behind.”
Grassroots efforts, such as the Vinton County Broadband Committee have been active in networking with each other, and the new statewide group formed by Governor Strickland. Attracting industry to rural areas, such as the ALF Industries Bio-Diesel plant, is high on the priority list for many such regional groups. Affordable services for all area residents to improve the quality of life through education, and health care are also major items on the agenda.
Local committee chairs, Carol Porter, and David Boothe gave a phone interview with The Telegram, while on their way to a meeting with the state committee. The Vinton County Commissioners recently adopted the Vinton County group as an official advisory council, which enables furtherance of research into the overall broadband issue, and aids in the ability to seek grant funding.
“Basically the advisory council went to a meeting with Commissioners at the Office of Information Technology, with Steve Edmondson,” Porter and Boothe shared. “We were informed that there were some things in the works to help broadband come to the rural areas. Mr. Edmondson couldn’t give any great detail, until the statewide committee meets December 4, 2007,” Porter told stated.
Porter and Boothe felt it would be advantageous to attend the meeting in Columbus, to meet the committee members, and to be informed first hand of the direction and focus which the group is planning on taking, and how it will affect Vinton County.
A recent funding shot in the arm came when money was allocated to advance the networking of health care providers. According to a release from the Ohio Broadband Council, The Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program is According to an issued release on the program. an innovative, enhanced funding initiative intended to help public and non-profit health care providers construct state- and region-wide broadband networks to provide telehealth and telemedicine services throughout the nation. The program will fund up to 85% of the costs of constructing those networks, as well as the costs of advanced telecommunications and information services that will ride over these networks. If selected, up to 85% of the cost of connecting to Internet2, a dedicated nationwide backbone, may also be funded by the pilot program. Connection to Internet 2 is not required, but may be requested by the applicants.
On November 19, the FCC announced over $417 million for the construction of 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth networks in 42 states and three U.S. territories under the program. Broadband deployment is one of the Commission’s top priorities – particularly in rural America. And nowhere is the need for broadband greater than in rural healthcare, where isolated clinics can save lives by using advanced communications technology to tap the expertise of modern urban medical centers.
“Every day we do not have broadband is another day that companies will bypass the Ohio when looking to relocate. Simply put, our economic future depends on the availability of broadband access,” Space continued.