FCC's chief wants all to join digital revolution


Topeka,Kansas (02-21-2004)

From Topeka Capital-Journal
By Ryan Malashock



Michael Powell's house is a paradise for a technologically advanced generation of children.

Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has six televisions, all with satellite hook-ups and TiVo. He has high-speed DSL Internet access, two game systems and two laptops.

His sons' lives are being shaped every day by the ever-growing elements of broadband technology. And Powell wants everyone nationwide to be afforded the same opportunities.

"We have kids right now who are fearless in technology," Powell said. "This digital generation has not yet grown up. Our next generation is going to expect this kind of access and activity, and we're aiming to make that possible."

The broadband issue was a hot topic Friday at the Kansas Rural Broadband and Telemedicine Summit at The University of Kansas.

State Rep. Tom Sloan invited Powell to the daylong conference at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. Also attending the event were Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Hilda Legg, administrator for Rural Utilities Service; and more than 100 communications industry officials.

At Rural Utilities Service, a program associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Legg decides when and where $2 billion worth of congressional funds goes toward developing broadband technology in rural communities.

A 2001 study by the National Exchange Carriers Association estimated that making the entire country broadband-friendly would cost $10.9 billion.

Legg said she is confident that linking rural communities to broadband can make sense financially. Informing rural communities of the applications of broadband, such as children researching via the Internet and elderly people receiving medical attention, will cause the process to speed up.

"This is becoming a way of life," Legg said. "Once everyone understands the usage and how important this is becoming to everyday life, I think this will become a high priority."

Ryan Malashock can be reached at (785) 295-1180 or ryan.malashock@cjonline.com.

AT THE SUMMIT

A host of notables attended the Kansas Rural Broadband and Telemedicine Summit:

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence; Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe; Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Hilda Legg, administrator for Rural Utilities Service; Rear Admiral Mary Pat Couig, assistant U.S. surgeon general; and representatives from Pixius Communications, Sunflower Broadband, Cox Communications, SBC, Tri-County Telephone and Rural Telephone Services

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