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Summit to study high-speed Internet projects for Nevada

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press

Getting Nevada – and Nevadans – on board and up to speed on connecting to a fast-paced world through high-speed Internet will be the focus of a one day summit being held in Dayton.

“Wired for Success” is being hosted Monday by nonprofit Connect Nevada and the governor’s Nevada Broadband Task Force.

The goal is to bring state and local leaders and broadband providers together to discuss how to expand high-speed Internet access and why the technology is critical to Nevada’s economic future.

“Whether you live in a rural or urban area, high-speed Internet enables access to quality jobs, information and vital services ranging from interactive telemedicine to higher education,” said Daphne DeLeon, state librarian and chairwoman of task force.

“Broadband gives you the opportunity to work from home, take online classes and market your products, all of which have a positive impact on the local economy,” she said.

In a wired world and global economy, speedy connections are essential to transfer large amounts of data, such as medical records.

President Barack Obama has identified universal broadband as critical to driving economic development and producing jobs, and about $50 million in federal stimulus money is being spent in Nevada for various broadband projects.

Those projects include:

• $19.6 million to build and operate a statewide telemedicine network.

• $7 million to bring fiber-optic to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reservation north of Reno.

• $4.6 million to expand computing centers in public housing developments and senior centers in Clark County.

• $806,000 to expand computer training and computer access at public libraries.

• $10.1 million to bring broadband and digital phone service to rural communities statewide.

• $2.4 million to extend broadband service to Tuscarora, North Fork and Jarbidge in extreme Northern Nevada.

Getting fast networks in place is only part of the challenge, summit organizers said. The other is getting Nevadans comfortable with the technology and realizing how essential it is.

Lindsey Niedzielski, program manager for Connect Nevada, said 35 percent of residents in rural Nevada areas don’t subscribe to broadband service at home.

Of people statewide who don’t subscribe, 27 percent believe information on the Internet isn’t worth viewing, she said.

“They don’t think the content provided online is worth it,” Niedzielski said. “People who then did adopt realized it was worth the cost.”

These days, the Internet is more than playing online games or chatting with friends on social networking sites. It’s a lifeline, with more and more essential services – from banking, applying for jobs and benefits and communicating with your doctor – being conducted online.

Statewide, 67 percent of households have Internet service. But there’s a disproportionate gap among seniors, minority and low income residents.

Niedzielski said 64 percent of low-income and 42 percent of Hispanic households lack high-speed connections, while 58 percent of seniors are without broadband.

Another recent report said 75 percent of Nevada businesses subscribe to broadband, though roughly 16,000 do not. Those that do had median annual revenues $100,000 higher than businesses that don’t use the Internet in their business activities, the report said.