Rep. Mary Dye addresses technology leaders in Spokane

Thousands remain stranded on the wrong side of the broadband divide

Rural Washington is waiting.  This seemed to be the predominant message at a technology roundtable in Spokane this past week, where concerns about inadequate broadband service drew a packed house.  For Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, the meeting was the latest in a long series of gatherings held over a span of 18-months, geared toward addressing the increasing need for essential services in counties across the state.

“Today's world moves at the speed of light,” said Dye.  “In the majority of our rural communities, residents are forced to do business with what feels like the equivalent of dial-up.  It is a challenge for the leaders of small communities to attract new businesses and keep the local economy growing when there are roadblocks to ensuring sufficient infrastructure.”

During the 2017 legislative session, Dye introduced a bill that would pave the way for ports to install infrastructure to accommodate high-speed internet in these underserved communities. Many consider House Bill 1702, and its companion, Senate Bill 5679, to be a game changer in the current broadband divide.

Tom Gurr, Executive Director of Pacific Technology Alliance, the non-profit that organized the roundtable discussion, believes Dye's tenacity has opened the door to greater understanding.

“Connectivity is important to Washingtonians. Broadband access enables education, healthcare and commerce for rural and urban residents alike,” said Gurr. “Rep. Dye is key in moving the issue forward. Her passion and commitment to enhancing connectivity in rural parts of the state has driven the conversation for the last year.”

The roundtable featured Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who addressed the gathering and used it to learn more from constituents about the effect the lack of adequate service has on their lives.  A panel of representatives from Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft and Fatbeam discussed the broadband divide from their perspective. They provided answers to the questions of a diverse audience made up of residents, lawmakers, and community and economic development leaders.

“People are starting to understand that the need for broadband is not unlike the need for paved highways,” continued Dye.  “But in this case, the call is for an information super highway that provides an avenue for the development of commerce in our rural communities.”

Dye continues her efforts to ensure rural communities receive adequate broadband service.  As a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce committee, she attended tech meetings this month in Boston, as well as conferences at the gathering of the Council of State Governments.  Dye will join NCSL's Wireless University in mid-September in San Francisco.



Washington State House Republican Communications