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County Forms New Special Committee on Broadband

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County Forms New Special Committee on Broadband

Friday, September 10, 2010
The Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature has established a Special Committee on Broadband, and the County seeks applications from volunteers interested in serving on the advisory committee.

Chair Martha Robertson has charged the special committee with exploring issues and advising the Legislature on how to best promote broadband technology countywide, addressing the needs of unserved and underserved residents, fostering public-private innovation, enhancing existing capabilities, and supporting good governance.

The 15-20 member broad-based committee will consist of representatives of government information technology, business and economic development, telecommunications providers, higher education, local school districts, elected officials, County staff, and community residents. Applications from those interested in serving on the committee must be received no later than October 1.

"Affordable access to the internet is often taken for granted by people who already have it, but many of Tompkins County's residents are unable to connect," notes Chair Robertson. "Broadband service has become as essential for economic activity and educational opportunities as roads and electricity, so I'm pleased to announce the formation of this advisory committee and delighted that Legislator Pat Pryor has agreed to lead the effort."

Responsibilities will include investigation of unmet needs in the county for internet access and, where access is available, other needs that exist. The committee also will assess broadband infrastructure investment, deployment, and adoption opportunities countywide and make recommendations for improved broadband access and affordability in a number of focus areas--'including such fields as economic development, public safety, government performance, education equity, and rural broadband access. The committee also will be responsible for leading special broadband initiatives with countywide impact.

"I look forward to working with our Broadband Committee members to develop initiatives for the extension of broadband access to unserved and underserved parts of Tompkins County and, with the support of the County Legislature, to guiding the implementation of solutions as they move forward," Legislator Pryor states. "The committee will draw on the contributions of talented individuals and high-speed service providers from throughout the county and will collaborate with all interested municipalities. We will also investigate federal or other funding options that might provide our residents and businesses with this essential tool for participation in an increasingly competitive economy."

The Broadband Committee will begin work before the end of October and will deliver an interim report to the Legislature after six months which will identify key issues affecting broadband accessibility and affordability and may include specific findings and recommendations.

"Our challenge is similar to many communities across the country: how are we going to ensure that the networks of the future are accessible and affordable to our community, particularly for consumers in rural areas?" says Deputy County Administrator Paula Younger, who has assisted with previous broadband efforts and will work with the new special committee. "Part of the answer lies in a systematic assessment and prioritization of our community's needs for broadband service, and then in our ability to plan together based on those needs. Broadband communications in the 21st Century is critical to jobs, health, education, energy innovation, public safety, civic engagement, and much more. The legislature's special committee on broadband--'and the proposed make up of this committee--'provides an excellent opportunity to work together in translating vision into a manageable business case for improving broadband in our county."

Applicants to serve on the Special Committee on Broadband must complete the Tompkins County Advisory Board Application, available for download at the Legislature's web site at http://www.tompkins-co.org/legislature/advisory/resume.pdf. The application form also may be picked up at the Legislature Office, at the County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca.

To request an application be mailed to you, or for further information, contact the Legislature office at 274-5434 or by e-mail at Legislature@tompkins-co.org. Applications must be received by the Legislature Office no later than October 1 to be considered.