From the hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The Senate passed legislation this week that should promote competition among Internet service providers.
The bill authorizes cities and counties to issue bonds to pay for infrastructure for Internet service. The local governments may not operate the Internet system, but they would own all the equipment and infrastructure.
Increased competition should lower rates for wireless services, and give customers more options. Another benefit of competition is that service is more reliable.
This is especially important in small towns and rural areas, where sometimes there are just a couple of providers, or where one provider has a monopoly.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. I expect it will pass easily. The Senate passed it unanimously, on a 35-to-0 vote.
Elected officials and policy makers now appreciate that broadband has become an essential utility.
Installing Internet services in rural areas has been compared to the nationwide effort in the 1930s to bring electric power to all parts of the United States.
One of my Senate colleagues compared the availability of Internet to the availability of running water, as far as their importance to a community’s prosperity.
High speed Internet is vital for hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, especially now that the demand for telemedicine is growing.
Schools are required to teach computer science. Any student whose classroom does not have access to the Internet is going to be at a severe disadvantage, academically.
That disadvantage will continue after graduation, when those students must compete for jobs with other young people who have learned how to take advantage of telecommunications technology.
These days, the availability of broadband is essential for economic development. Can you imagine trying to recruit an industry to an area where there is no Internet?
Toyota and Mercedes-Benz are not going to build a manufacturing plant anywhere that is off the grid.
In other legislative news, a minority of senators had a showdown with the governor. They were able to block an appropriation that would authorize the governor to hire staff.
Their motivation was that they wanted to be more involved in the governor’s decision making.
After three days of unnecessary grandstanding, on the part of individuals who appear to be running for political office rather than reading and working on legislation.
The Senate put a stop to the publicity-seeking when a supermajority of senators voted to pass the funding bill.
I hope we can now focus on the true business of the legislature, which is to adopt a budget for state government and to enact laws that benefit and protect Arkansas citizens.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Senator Keith Ingram.