Online testing for students and online training for teachers. Imaging capabilities for hospitals. Surveillance of inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center through linked cameras.
Officials said there are myriad benefits to the recently expanded broadband network in Southeastern Washington, and Gov. Chris Gregoire will be in Kennewick to celebrate the project later this month at the Kennewick branch of the Mid-Columbia Libraries.
Part of a $184 million statewide effort largely paid for by 2009 federal economic stimulus dollars, construction is ongoing for parts of the new network, including the piece that will connect the Tri-Cities more directly to Spokane.
But completed rural connections, including one from the Tri-Cities to Kahlotus, already are up and running, bringing information to rural residents and supporting the devices used by people every day in work and play.
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"Even with cellphones and wireless, you need something to take that information from the (cell) towers and put it on the internet," said Tim Nies, administrative services director with Franklin PUD.
About $140 million for the project was provided by the federal government. The remainder came from matching funds provided by NoaNet, the Tacoma-based nonprofit charged with overseeing construction of the network expansion, as well as other internet service providers and PUDs, which connected the new broadband links to their already existing networks.
Angela Bennink, spokeswoman for NoaNet, said the goal of the project was to reach into rural areas that could benefit from better connectivity at health clinics, schools and libraries. Improved internet access is also important for economic development, she said.
"There's more and more content being delivered and over the internet and over broadband," Bennink said.
Nies said the connection of multiple routes between communities across the state also will be a big benefit. The uncompleted route between the Tri-Cities and Spokane will be a more direct connection between the two communities but also help in case the current routes connecting southeastern Washington to Seattle and Portland are severed.
"The more routes we have, the more consistency we'll have," Nies said.
If you go
-- What: Celebrating completion of high-speed broadband network expansion
-- When: 10:30 a.m. July 26
-- Where: Kennewick branch of Mid-Columbia Libraries, 1620 S. Union St.
-- Who: Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to appear along with officials from NoaNet and the Benton and Franklin PUDs and Mid-Columbia Libraries.