This afternoon Chris Perone -D Norwalk shepherded through a bill that would create the first step towards creating high speed broad band Internet access. So what does it all mean? First, WIFI is Internet access that you get wirelessly. WHen you walk into a Starbucks and see people hunched over laptops they are more than likely busy emailing, IMing and surfing over WIFI.
Towns like Middletown have figured out that creating a WIFI zone on Main street would be a good way to make it easier for people frequenting shops and restaurants to check email or surf the web by connecting to the free WIFI zone. Cities like Philadelphia have taken it one step further by making the entire city a free WIFI zone. This foray into technology allows municipalities to explore better services and encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of web based applications that are made possible through the free access to the Internet. Norwalk even has a baby WIFI area in the Maritime Aquarium. I say baby, because it’s limited to that area, rather than open public spaces.
Perone’s bill takes the idea to a statewide level, which would enable the costs of things like traffic cameras, to hook into an information grid accessible to all, rather than relying on piecemeal implementations. From the press release:
The bill, HB 7282 “An Act Concerning Property Tax Delinquencies of Telecommunications Companies,” was sponsored by Rep. Chris Perone (D-Norwalk), who hailed it’s acceptance as “historic.”
“This bill helps level is an important first step in creating state wide internet access,” Rep. Perone said. “Ultimately, I believe that we will see Connecticut become a state with a world-class communications infrastructure.”
The bill calls for the creation of a “Broadband Coordinating Council,” which will be composed of 10 members from both the public and private sectors. Two of the members will be appointed by the Governor, two from the Speaker of the House, two from the President pro-tempore of the Senate and one from the Majority Leaders of the House and Senate and one from the Minority Leaders of the House and Senate. The duties of the Council are two-fold: to monitor the state’s development into a leader in top-of-the-line communications and to report to the General Assembly on any matters of technology that they are aware of that require immediate attention.
“The ‘Broadband Coordinating Council’ ensures that the state not only keeps pace with technology, but will stay step ahead in pursuing new ideas in internet communication,” said Rep. Perone.
Under the legislation, state municipalities will receive broadband internet access, allowing citizens to go online anywhere in the town. Aimed at targeting students, small business owners and independent contractors, the increased accessibility to the internet could provide countless benefits.
“Imagine if you are a real estate agent and need to drive across a town or city to show a house,” Rep. Perone said. “If you get a phone call on the way telling you to check your e-mail instantly, you’ll just be able to pull over to the side of the road and open up your laptop to immediately be able to read it. The bill targets our increasingly mobile and busy society, and tries to make life easier on them.”
The vote tally in the House was 149-0. The bill now awaits further action in the Senate.
Specifically, in the language only a legislator can love, The amendment does the following:
Section 501 adds activities related to the planning of a municipal broadband network to the list of purposes for which General Obligation (GO) bond funds can be used under the Local Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP) . To the degree that this causes GO bond funds to be expended more rapidly than they otherwise would have been, there will be an increase in debt service costs in future years. The unallocated balance for LoCIP as of 6/6/07 is $31.1 million.
Section 502 establishes the nine-member Broadband Internet Coordinating Council that is required to: (1) monitor trends and developments in the state’s efforts to develop a statewide, world-class communications infrastructure and (2) issue any reports it deems necessary to the Energy and Technology Committee. It is anticipated that (1) the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management or his designee and (2) the chairperson of the Public Utilities Control Authority or his designee, can attend meetings of the Council within normal budgetary resources and will not result in a fiscal impact to either agency.
Part of the vision of making COnnecticut more economically competitive is to to tackle initiatives that would allow people, goods and services to travel quickly through the state. This bill sets the stage to make Connecticut more economically advantageous than other regions of the US. Or, as I like to think, puts on par with Singapore, where the entire country is WIFI.
UPDATE: The bill passed the CT Senate late Wednesday night and now waits Governor Rell’s signature.