By Rep. Darrio Melton
If the statistics hold, seven out of ten people reading this article will be doing so on a laptop using the Internet. Among all American adults, 56 percent have used a cell phone to access news in the last week.
Needless to say, the Internet has changed the way that we access news and stay up-to-date with current events. It has changed the way we stay in touch with friends and family, pay bills and make purchases.
It is rapidly evolving the way that companies carry out their business in every field–including health care, education and sales.
When companies look to locate or expand in Alabama, access to up-to-date Internet technology is a factor in making that decision. When we work to make our schools technologically-driven for the future, we must have the infrastructure to support it. When our hospitals develop telemedicine programs, they will need top-of-the-line Internet to do so.
For these reasons, I’m proud to learn that Governor Bentley signed an executive order to create the Office of Broadband Development to spread broadband Internet access across Alabama.
If we expect to move Alabama forward into the 21st century, we absolutely must focus on developing and spreading the technology to do so.
Expanding broadband Internet access will be one component to leveling the playing field across urban and rural Alabama–from allowing students the same educational opportunities as their urban and suburban counterparts, to giving businesses the opportunity to expand and reach their consumers, to giving voters the ability to research and learn about candidates for public office, to giving doctors the ability to consult with patients in rural areas without requiring a 100-mile commute.
It’s past time to connect Alabama to the World Wide Web, opening windows and doors to a 21st century state.
I’m proud of Governor Bentley for taking the lead on this initiative, I’m looking forward to working closely with him to see it implemented, and I’m excited to see the benefits for our state.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.