Durbin aims to close Illinois' digital divide

Last month, Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, hosted a Regional Broadband Summit in Central Illinois to discuss the importance of universal internet access in his state. He announced that soon he will introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate to spur a national effort to provide high speed internet access to underserved areas.

In an innovative move, Durbin said the outline of the bill will be posted online, and Internet users will be invited to give suggestions on how to improve it.

But the basic idea of the bill is clear. As Durbin said,

We need to close the digital divide, ensuring that rural Americans are not left behind in the 21st Century's digital economy… We need every existing and future broadband service provider to step up to the national challenge.

The importance of universal high speed internet access is not lost on Durbin. He understands the benefits it provides to rural residents, from health care to education to business opportunities. That's why he's making this issue a priority.

In addition to his legislation in the Senate, Durbin said he also plans to lead a statewide effort to expand high speed internet access to rural areas of Illinois. This will mean building lots of new infrastructure, an effort that will require the cooperation of private providers and the government, since there are rural areas that simply won't be served by for-profit companies alone.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn't be served. Durbin noted,

Is this similar to providing electricity to farms and rural areas, which we did 60 years ago? I think it is in many respects. There are some areas and some communities that will never be reached by private business, and we have to decide we are not going to leave them behind.

Durbin discusses broadband service (Springfield Journal-Review)

Durbin Hosts Regional Summit to Promote Broadband as Economic Development Tool (Press Release)