Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Washington: an information enigma
Improving Washington’s broadband usage
New broadband grants help Washington communities improve economic and civic engagement
Lawrence Pintak’s recent guest column,“Ours state’s information ghettos,” [Opinion, June 18] could not have been more timely. Pintak suggests several steps for ensuring that all Washington residents participate in our “digital innovation and global engagement economy.”
This week, the Washington State Broadband Office of the Department of Commerce announced the award of $300,000 in grants to tackle many of the same issues Pintak raises. The five grant recipients are all local technology planning teams, which include schools, county and city governments, as well as private-sector companies, nonprofits and economic-development organizations. These teams have specific plans to: identify gaps in broadband access and adoption, develop community-specific plans for increasing broadband skills and use (sometimes referred to as digital literacy) and focus on rural and economically challenged communities in the state.
Sixteen organizations from across the state applied, even though 96 percent of the state has broadband access. That access is at speeds better than three megabits-per-second — that’s enough bandwidth to stream a video, but not enough to do high-definition telelearning, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Speed Guide.
As these teams begin their work, local and state policymakers will undoubtedly be made aware of the challenges of broadband access and adoption faced by their communities because they are partners in most projects. We expect that 12 months from now, more Washington residents will be using broadband more effectively and moving toward full participation in their community’s civic and economic health.
— Frieda Ray, Washington State Broadband Office, Olympia