Powell touts Internet capabilities


Lawrence,KS (02-22-2004)

From Lawrence Journal World
By Chad Lawhorn



Michael Powell doesn't know when the most remote farmhouse in Kansas will enter the high-speed world of the Internet, but he has no doubts that day will come.

Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said broadband -- a term for methods that allow high-speed, high-volume Internet usage -- was a "revolution" and "the great movement of our day."

"The revolution is incomplete if it doesn't come to every hamlet in America," Powell said Friday at the Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's west campus.

Powell was in Lawrence to give the keynote address Friday at the Kansas Rural Stakeholder Summit, which attracted U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and area telecommunications and cable system executives. Powell said rural areas of the country would benefit from new technologies that allow the Internet to be accessed via radio waves, satellites and existing electric lines.

"I won't venture a guess on the day it will all happen, but I'll say sooner than most people think," Powell said.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, who organized Friday's event, said he was waiting to take advantage of the new technology.

"I live one and a half miles outside the city limits, and I don't have access to high-speed Internet," Sloan said. "And we're considered an urbanized county in Kansas."

Powell said it was critical to extend broadband services into rural areas if those areas hoped to compete in the new world economy.

"I can't think of anything that is going to create greater job potential," Powell said. "Broadband isn't a technology exercise. It is an economic exercise."

If rural areas could gain access to the technologies and then educate residents on how to use them, Powell said, it could significantly slow the movement of technology jobs to overseas countries.

"I don't see any reason why we can't outsource jobs to rural Kansas or rural Mississippi or Appalachia," Powell said.

He also touted the potential benefits of telemedicine, which allows doctors to examine patients via the Internet, and distance learning, which allows students to take classes from home.

Powell, though, said the FCC would have to be careful in how it regulated the emerging industries. Brownback agreed that the government needed to have a lighter hand when it comes to regulating businesses that are trying to use new technologies.

"We need to set the broad parameters and say this is out of bounds and this is out of bounds," Brownback said. "But after that, we need to say 'God bless you. Go out and play.'"

During Powell's three-day visit to Kansas, he received a briefing on research at Kansas University's Information and Telecommunications Technology Center, toured a Johnson County 911 center, and visited Fort Leavenworth, where he once lived when his father, Secretary of State Colin Powell, was stationed there.

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