I released my Education Superhighway plan earlier this month, to bring high speed fiber cable to every school, medical office and other hubs across Montana as part of the new economic infrastructure we need to build in Montana and in America in the near future. Read the story about my plan in the Montana Standard.
Fiber is 100 times faster than broadband and can handle unlimited loads. Major tech companies and innovative non-profits are already pressing ahead with fiber. But Montana and major parts of America are being and will continue to be left behind if we do not act promptly and comprehensively.
Currently, the U.S. ranks 13th globally for our connectivity. But we can use fiber to expand learning opportunities in the schools and lay the foundation for the growing biotech economy.
This serves our kids, our health and creates jobs.
Installation of fiber, the networks that will emanate from fiber, as well as the additional professional staff needed to support the schools and to support Montana's medical centers will create more than 1,000 jobs in the near term and more in the future. Education professionals will train teachers on how to effectively leverage fiber in the classroom. Networking staff will establish and maintain the tech infrastructure of wireless in every classroom and the 1:1 internet access devices for students. Medical technology experts will set up, maintain and train medical professionals on the use of fiber.
Based on numbers from capital markets research firms and Google Fiber, connecting Montana schools, medical centers and other hubs will cost an estimated $2 billion, including installation of fiber and routers, wireless modems and security equipment. Nationwide, the effort would cost about $150 billion.
But we have to do this. Building infrastructure is no small endeavor. It takes action and support at the federal level. It's one of the reasons I want to represent the people of Montana in the U.S. Senate.
Where optical fiber cable is already laid in Montana, we need to turn it on and we need to build the "last mile," -- the technical slang for taking the fiber from a junction box to an individual building. Too often that last mile now is either not connected or is only connected with broadband.
This endeavor could be made economical along the way with private-public partnerships, no interest loans and guaranteed rate contracts. Google Fiber is already making such investments. But, Montana doesn't have the population density that will make Google Fiber step in.
Fiber is a pipeline I can support! This is no different in size, scope or importance than the Rural Electrification Administration which brought electricity to rural America. This is the future. What are we waiting for?
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