02871

OpEd: Sustainable future demands offshore wind, not ocean oil drilling

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-13)By Sen. Dawn Euer

April 20 marked 12 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The disaster released over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico making it the largest marine oil spill in history. Its legacy includes more than $500 million in losses to the recreation industry, $1 billion of losses to the seafood industry, and a 4-8% decrease in the regional housing market. For years after, the spill continued to affect marine wildlife in the region.

While this tragedy was monumental in its size and devastation, oil spills are not rare events. They are continuously happening across the country. While separated by invisible jurisdictional lines, we all share one ocean, so an oil spill anywhere is an oil spill everywhere. That’s why, as the Ocean State, we must do everything we can do to protect our coasts, wildlife, and economy.

The federal government has demonstrated a renewed commitment to climate change, science, and equity, however, it has also continued to auction off acres of the U.S. coast for drilling without considering the greenhouse gas emissions that could result. In the face of uncertainty, states are leading the way, not just in banning and restricting offshore drilling, but in transitioning our energy towards clean renewable energy.

In 2019, I stood with legislators from eight other states working on coordinated action to ban offshore drilling. Since then, ten states have banned or restricted drilling.

As we continue to move away from offshore drilling, we must look toward the promises of offshore wind. The transition to clean renewable energy is essential in our fight against climate change. Offshore wind offers us an incredible opportunity to do that.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge of interest and opportunities around offshore wind. The latest federal lease auction in February in the New York Bight was the most successful in U.S. history. And not just for offshore wind auctions, but including the oil and gas industry. Offshore wind is our future and the future is now.

We’re in the critical decade for climate action. The climate crisis demands that we promptly cut greenhouse gas emissions and transition our energy to renewable and clean sources. Offshore wind offers us an opportunity to mitigate climate impacts, protect human health, and conserve our ocean. This transition is larger than just the action of one state. It can only be achieved through a whole of government approach, coordination between states, and critical collaboration with communities. That’s why I’m part of the Coastal Working Group through the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

This group brings together coastal legislators with a focus on ocean climate policy ideas, strategies, and lessons learned. Through this group, I’m working with northeastern legislatorsto ensure our transition to offshore wind helps to meet ambitious climate goals. We must make sure that this development is done responsibly while taking into consideration workers, fisheries, local supply chains, and marine wildlife protection.

This year, I introduced S.B.2583. This bill incentivizes regional coordination and requires that the distribution company request proposals for the development of 600 new megawatts of offshore wind by August 2022. It also sets requirements for bidder proposals, including environmental and fisheries mitigation plans, a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, and employment and domestic supply chain considerations.

With states committing to a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean renewable energy, I know we have what we need to take action on climate and protect our oceans from future disasters. 

While this week we remember the tragedy of Deepwater Horizon, I stand hopeful and optimistic about the future of our ocean. I’m proud of the work the Ocean State and all coastal states are doing to not just prevent future disasters, but to improve the health of our coasts, wildlife, and create a thriving coastal economy for generations to come.

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

OpEd: We Must Reimagine Roe to Truly Protect Access for All

Womxn Project logoStatement by The Womxn Project on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Saturday, January 22, 2022

“As we mark the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that affirmed the right to abortion, but what is clear is that right is under attack.  For many people pushed to the margins - women of color, low-income people, young people, and immigrant women – the right has been pushed out of reach. 

We worked hard to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act and make sure that no matter what happens at the federal level that here in Rhode Island the right would be protected in our state. This is a critical step, but it does not ensure everyone who needs an abortion can actually get one. We believe in more!

  • We are proud to continue to work with Representative Liana Cassar, Senator Bridget Valverde and a strong set of partners to advance the “Equality in Abortion Coverage Act”, our state bill to eliminate the bans on health coverage for abortion and to advocate for the federal EACH Woman Act

  • We are grateful to Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin for standing with us in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which ensures lawmakers do not push medically unnecessary restrictions just to make it harder to provide or seek an abortion.  

  • We need to pass our state bill and push for the EACH Woman and WHPA, but the fact is that still won’t get rid of policies like the one we have here in Rhode Island that create extra barriers for young people. Some people don’t have parents they can rely on. We should make sure anyone who is not ready to be a parent can get an abortion.  We need to get this unnecessary and harmful barriers off the books! 

  • There are many other important steps we can take to make sure that whether someone chooses adoption, seeks abortion or wants to become a parent or add to their family that they can make the decision that makes sense for them and get timely, quality care. This includes ongoing efforts to address barriers to abortion pills, making sure that people who are incarcerated get adequate and compassionate reproductive health care, and continuing to expand the availability of the full range of services people need to plan their families and futures and advance health equity for all Rhode Islanders. 

We know that Black, Indigenous and people of color in our state continue to deal with huge obstacles to the support and services needed to live with health and dignity.  We believe that the ability to seek health care should not be predicated on who you are, where your benefits come from, how much money you make or where you live.  It should not be limited by how old you are.  It is way past time that we take action to make sure that when a person needs to end a pregnancy, they will have access to safe, affordable medical care.

Let us reimagine what it truly looks like to honor Roe and make sure that we are able to create true abortion access for all!”    

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02871, Localblogging, GA, healthcare

OpEd: Southern New England states must honor commitment to cutting transportation pollution

Sen. DiMario (D-36), Rep. Cortvriend (D-72)By Sen. Alana DiMario and Rep. Terri Cortvriend

In the decade-plus since the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) was first developed under the Carcieri administration, there has been growing, bipartisan consensus that we must end our dependence on fossil fuels for the health of the people in our communities and our planet. No one disputes that reality.

And in that decade of work and planning and a worsening climate crisis, no one has come up with a better solution to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. TCI would cut greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles in the region by an estimated 26% and generate a total of more than $3 billion dollars over 10 years for the participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, less-polluting transportation options and to help energize economic recovery.

It isn't a political landscape that dictates what we must do here; it is the physical reality of the world in which we are living, and an absolute necessity to take action to reduce those emissions. 

This week Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker cast doubt on the agreement their states signed with Rhode Island and Washington D.C. to take action on TCI, with Lamont saying high gasoline prices would probably mean his state legislature wouldn’t support it, and Baker following, saying he wouldn’t stay without other states. We are so disappointed.

That’s unacceptable and short-sighted. We should all be outraged by the idea of staying dependent on and beholden to giant fossil fuel corporations that take billions in taxpayer subsidies while raising gas prices and raking in record profits, all while polluting the earth and making our communities sicker. These are the costs we all bear every day, and it’s long past time the fossil fuel companies take some responsibility for the damage they have done. A model like TCI is still the best plan we have to significantly reduce emissions and help fund Rhode Island’s off ramp from fossil fuel dependence.

It should be noted that Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut together account for almost three-quarters of transportation emissions across New England. We need to do our part to address it.

Here in Rhode Island, our legislative leaders have — fortunately — expressed receptiveness for TCI. The Ocean State has both the ability and the responsibility to move forward on this concept regardless of whether our neighbors uphold their commitments.

In the upcoming legislative session, we will be working on a plan to center equity while reducing transportation emissions and creating a funding stream for modernizing transit. While a regional commitment would be more effective — and we look forward to reaching out to neighboring states to broker such an agreement — nothing could be more ineffective than longer inaction.

As elected officials it is our duty to keep the health and safety of our communities front and center in the decisions that we make. Leading the region in implementing the concepts of TCI does exactly that. For too many decades we have deferred acting on climate change, and there is no more time to waste. If we aren't here to fight for the bold and necessary changes to address the most pressing issues facing us and to reduce the burden on future generations, then why are we here?

Sen. Alana DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) are the sponsors of the TEAM Community Act (2021-S 0872/2021-H 6310), which creates the statutory framework to implement TCI.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

OpEd: Why Rhode Island needs municipal broadband infrastructure

By Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

I could not have predicted the incredible sense of urgency for fiber broadband that has swept Rhode Island and the nation in just five short months!   

Millions of dollars in federal funds are available to states, but to access the money the feds are mandating states invest in deploying fiber broadband to unserved and underserved citizens. That’s one way to make sure Rhode Island, one of only two states in the country without any broadband governance or investment over the past eight years, starts deploying fiber to your home and business.  

US News.com reports that Rhode Island is ranked 37th for high-speed internet access; Rhode Island is ranked 49th for access to faster, more advanced Gigabit internet connection. Over the past decade, while Rhode Island sat on the sidelines as this technology soared, many states and municipalities invested in fiber broadband. We need to catch up, and fast. 

Seventeen states have already earmarked federal dollars for broadband including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Rhode Island could see $112 million in capital projects for fiber broadband.  The U.S Treasury is pretty clear that state capital projects must focus on 100 Mbps (download) and 20 mbps (upload).

Currently 45% of Rhode Islanders do not have 100/20 internet speeds, according to OOKLA Speed Test Intelligence Jan 2020-Aug 2021.  Go to www.speedtest.net to see your download/upload internet speeds. 

Local government should not be in the broadband business, just as local government is not in the airline business. Local government is in the infrastructure business; building sidewalks and bridges. Government is well-suited to build broadband infrastructure and lease it to internet service providers (ISPs), just as governments often build and own airports and lease the gates to airlines that compete for customers. Competition will bring better services and lower prices.

A municipality could build and own the conduit (pipe) and the fiber (glass) for the public good so businesses and residents have an “open access network.”  Any ISP that wants to do business pays rent to the municipality to offer their internet services.  Residents and businesses have a choice of internet providers and a municipality has a recurring revenue stream.   

Longmont, Colorado, is an example of a successful municipal broadband project. NextLight began building its award-winning fiber network in 2014 and now offers 90,000 residents access to 1,000 Mbps service with 60% take rate (residents subscribing to fiber broadband). There’s also Wilson, North Carolina; Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Everett, Mass.; to name a few. Municipalities would have to perform a cost benefit analysis.  If municipalities make bad decisions there will be failures, which is true of any infrastructure project.

This business model could be an economic opportunity for cable companies.  Municipalities have something that private and for-profit companies do not have and that’s “patient” capital.  A city or town has the financial ability to bond to build over 20 to 30 years, something private companies cannot do because Wall Street will only look at a 3- to 5-year rate of return.

The best measure of fiber broadband is more than “access,” it’s the societal impacts of what it delivers - online learning, telehealth and remote work conferences.  I will not stop advocating for faster, reliable, and affordable municipal fiber broadband because it’s not just the future; it’s what will determine where we live, work, learn, and do business.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Innovation, Internet, & Technology. She serves on House Finance and sponsored the RI Broadband bill that unanimously passed the House.  

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02871, Localblogging, GA, broadband

OpEd: The Last Mile: Getting Fiber Broadband to Your Home or Business

By Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

As the pandemic continues, it’s been an eye-opener on how important access to high-speed fiber optic is in our modern life. Decades ago, our nation created infrastructure programs for electricity, telephone and highways. Today, it’s fiber broadband — fast, cheap and the future. Rhode Island’s coaxial, copper cable system is old-school. 

Rhode Island will receive over $150 million in federal funding for broadband through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that has passed the U.S Senate and is now in the U.S. House.  The bill includes 5% of federal dollars to be used for planning, GIS mapping, and strategy implementation to set up a state broadband office. Currently, Rhode Island is one of only two states without any state agency working on fiber broadband.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a broadband strategic plan, create GIS (geographic information systems) mapping that shows which areas of the state are unserved and underserved, and deploy fiber to homes and businesses instead of the coaxial, copper cable we’ve been using for decades. 

Rhode Island has a lot of fiber between R.I. Department of Transportation fiber and OSHEAN’s 48 strands. However, there are no on/off ramps to connect municipalities, residents or businesses to this fiber highway. Broadband is as important in the 21st century as electricity was in the 20th century.  

In order to access the federal funding, Rhode Island will need to develop a plan for fiber broadband deployment to homes and businesses and a plan to fix digital inequities in underserved and unserved neighborhoods.  

The new RI Broadband office, with 2 or 3 dedicated employees should begin by setting up municipal broadband and funding opportunities.

Since this is federal funding, the state will be required to use a competitive bidding process for connecting homes and businesses to broadband. Many states and municipalities already have “open access” fiber networks where several internet service providers compete to provide service, which means you have a choice. When did competition become a bad thing in Rhode Island?  

COVID has taught us how important high-speed internet access is. Incumbent cable providers sell download speeds of 175 or 200 Mbps. That’s fine if you’re only downloading a movie, but it’s upload speeds that matter. The internet is now interactive. Upload speeds of 10 or 20 Mbps are insufficient. Coaxial cable cannot provide affordable, symmetrical speeds and that’s why fiber broadband is the future, now.

Think about your own internet usage in your home — Zoom meetings, telehealth, uploading homework or the Peloton bike; that’s a lot of bandwidth. You can’t run a home on 125/10, so how do you run a business? For many people, their small business is in the home.

Block Island is building the first municipal fiber network in our state. Last summer, voters overwhelmingly approved an $8 million 20-year bond for broadband so island residents and businesses will have fast, reliable, affordable broadband. A 100/100 Mbps fiber broadband package there is expected to cost $72 a month. It’s far better than coaxial cable, which is twice the cost and is 150/20 Mbps.

 Go to www.speedtest.net and see your download and upload speeds and then check your cable bill to see what you’re actually paying for. 

Rhode Island cannot compete if the states around us are offering fast, reliable, affordable fiber broadband. I believe in the power of technology just as I believe in the future of Rhode Island. The future is now.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74- Jamestown/Middletown) is chairwoman of the House Innovation, Internet and Technology Committee.

Tags: 
02871, GA, broadband

Suicide prevention bill named for Portsmouth teen signed into law

Bill signing with Gov. McKee, Sen. Seveney, Rep. Cortvriend


STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Sen. James A. Seveney has been signed into law to require all public school districts to adopt suicide prevention policies and train all personnel in suicide awareness and prevention annually.

The Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act (2021-H 53532021-S 0031) will require all school personnel — including teachers, administration, custodians, lunch personnel, substitutes, nurses, coaches, and coaching staff, even if volunteers — to be trained in suicide prevention and awareness. The state Department of Education will establish the guidelines for the training curriculum.

The bill is named for Nathan Bruno, a 15-year-old Portsmouth High School student who took his life in 2018.  Part of the bill is modeled after a state law passed in Tennessee and 19 other states, which was named after Jason Flatt, a 16-year-old from Nashville who died by suicide.

Flanked by Representative Cortvriend, Senator Seveney and Nathan Bruno’s family and friends, Gov. Daniel McKee ceremonially signed the bill Friday at the second annual Be Great For Nate Gala at Ochre Court in Newport.

“Suicide awareness and prevention is critical for students of all ages,” said Senator Seveney (D-11). “We must take action to ensure all adults with whom they interact at school are able to recognize the signs of students who are at risk. Nathan Bruno’s tragic death showed us how important it is for everyone who works with students to recognize the signs and to know how to properly handle those situations. It can save kids’ lives.”

Said Representative Cortvriend (D-72), “Our state and our country are facing alarmingly high rates of suicide. Children of all ages face pressure from all angles in today’s society. Social media, self-acceptance, bullies, drugs and alcohol, athletics, image, relationships, and home issues are just a few of the many pressures our children face every day. Kids need support from the adults in their lives, and this bill strives to ensure the adults they see every day at school are ready to recognize their needs and connect them to help when necessary.”

Several of Bruno’s friends formed a nonprofit called “Be Great for Nate” and an associated program called the Every Student Initiative. They approached the sponsors with the ideas that became this legislation. For more information about the Every Student Initiative and mental health awareness resources, visit bg4n.org/esi.

According to the Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Rhode Islanders between the ages of 15 and 34. In 2017, 15.9% of surveyed Rhode Island high school students they had considered suicide and 10.5% said they had attempted suicide. One in nine middle school students surveyed in Rhode Island that year reported having made a suicide plan.

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

Legislation banning guns from school grounds passed by the Senate and the House

STATE HOUSE – Both the Senate and the House today passed legislation which would prohibit anyone, with certain exceptions, from bringing a firearm onto school property.  The Senate version of the bill (2021-S 0073) is sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and the House legislation (2021-H 5555A) is sponsored by Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian.

The bills are named The Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021 in honor of its longtime champion in the Senate.  Whip Kazarian has introduced the legislation for the past several sessions.

“Guns do not belong in schools, and private citizens have no business bringing a gun on school property,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Citizens carrying firearms in schools increases risk, not safety. There have been dozens of examples of mishandling and accidental discharge of firearms in schools across our nation.  We are working hard to improve education in our state. The presence of firearms in schools is detrimental to a positive learning environment.”            

“Our nation has suffered so many horrific and tragic school shootings. Every parent deserves an assurance that no one is allowed to enter their child’s school armed. Guns simply have no place in schools, and we shouldn’t accept a situation that allows anyone outside the police to carry them there,” said Whip Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence). “This legislation give schools the same protections already afforded to the Rhode Island Convention Center, our post offices as well as our very own State House.”

“My Office prosecutes hundreds of gun crimes every year and it is through that experience that I have seen the trauma caused by gun violence,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “The Harold M. Metts School Safety Act is a common-sense step that lowers the risk of gun violence and enhances the safety of anyone in and around our schools. I applaud the work of Senate President Ruggerio, Representative Kazarian, the General Assembly, my fellow general officers, and advocates for their work in passing this important piece of legislation.”

This legislation would prohibit the possession of firearms on school grounds except for peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, persons under contract to provide school security services, and unloaded firearms in locked containers or a locked rack in a motor vehicle.

The legislation would apply to the property of any public or private elementary or secondary school, including school buses. Activities that would be exempt from the proposed law include firearm instruction and/or safety courses; government-sponsored military-related programs such as ROTC; interscholastic shooting and/or marksmanship events; military history and firearms collection courses; and the use of blank guns used in theatrical or athletic events.

President Ruggerio’s bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration and Whip Kazarian’s bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Note: Written from a State House news release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA, RICAGV

New song wins contest at NE Filk Convention

Totally chuffed that the piece I wrote two weeks ago won the song contest at the Northeast Filk Convention.

This is really special, since it was four years ago this weekend that I attended my first filk con—NEFilk—at the suggestion of Merav Hoffman who pulled me aside at Arisia and said, hey, did you know there are whole cons devoted to filk? I hadn't.

Thanks to everyone who listened and voted, and much respect to everyone who entered -- this was a wonderful collection of songs. I'm honored and delighted.

Link to the song on Bandcamp and a cheap and cheerful music video on YouTube.

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02871, Localblogging, Music

Portsmouth Water District elections on June 9

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at the District's main office at 1944 East Main Road. The polls will open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

Of the Board's seven seats, the positions of one (1) Tax Collector and two (2) Tax Assessors are up for election.

Running for the position of Tax Collector is Frederick W. Faerber, III of 271 Sprague St.

Running for the position of Tax Assessor are Theodore T. Czech of 120 Roger Williams Ct. and David M. Gleason of 63 Massasoit Ave.

As required by State Law, voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District’s election.

Editorial note: Written from a PWFD press release.

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02871, pwfd

LTE— Why Broadband Matters to You and Your Family

by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

COVID-19 has been the most convincing argument for Rhode Island to invest in high-speed internet, or dedicated broadband. Whether for remote working from home, distance learning or telehealth, broadband access must be reliable, fast and affordable. You wouldn’t buy a house or relocate your business without access to water or electricity. High-speed internet in a 21st economy is a necessary utility (although Rhode Island state law preempts any regulation of internet or telecoms- a story for later).

Rhode Island citizens and small businesses need high-speed, low-cost and reliable broadband service and not coaxial cable that’s shared with several hundred other homes or businesses, causing buffering and spotty coverage. Fiber-optic broadband is amazingly fast because it’s laser and doesn’t use electrical signals; so you don’t lose internet connectivity during an electrical outage.

Ten years ago, Rhode Island received $20 million in federal dollars and the state added $10 million to build out an amazing 48 strands of fiber-optic, high-speed broadband - 8,000 miles of broadband fiber running throughout this little state. Yet, only 10 strands of fiber-optic are being used for our hospitals, colleges, universities, libraries, and schools. We have a technology highway without any on/off ramps for residents, businesses, and municipalities to access.

Internet providers say, “RI has access to more broadband than any other state in the country; 98% of homes have fiber-optic broadband running outside their front door.” Yes, we do; it’s the middle mile of 48 strand of fiber. If only we could access it without paying exorbitant rates.

Lots and lots of federal funds will be flowing into every state across America for broadband infrastructure. But the federal dollars will only go to states that have a dedicated broadband coordinator or state entity that that can access, administer, and oversee the federal broadband funds.

As of this writing, Rhode Island still does not have a broadband coordinator, which means it is losing out on federal broadband dollars and has been for the past seven years. That’s why I’ve sponsored H5138, a broadband bill that needs to pass this legislative session to get our state off the bench into the technology broadband game. Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country without a broadband coordinator (Mississippi is the other).

A dedicated broadband coordinator in Commerce RI tells municipalities and the private sector that Rhode Island is serious about broadband. This broadband coordinator in my bill H5148 could access and administer federal dollars to help community-led projects like the one we’re working on for Aquidneck Island. It’s a pilot program that could be a municipal model for other local governments, business and nonprofits.

New Hampshire and Massachusetts are making a push to get people to live in those states and work remotely because they have invested in dedicated fiber-optic broadband. Here in RI, we’re losing businesses in Newport County because of the low internet speeds and high-costs of coaxial cable internet.

Community-led broadband projects (MA, NH, Utah, Hawaii, etc) are backed by revenue bonds, which are paid off by subscribers’ fees and dues- taxpayers pay nothing. A group of municipalities in Utah formed a nonprofit government entity (UTOPIA) that leases the broadband to ISPs (Cox, Verizon, Comcast, Opencape, etc) that can offer services to end users. Benefits include a GIG of service (not megabits!), creates competition from several different ISPs on the UTOPIA network making pricing affordable, and Utopia is developing in rural areas where many big profit-driven telecoms can forget about.

It’s time Rhode Island creates the on/off ramps to access the 8,000 miles of fiber-optic that’s running throughout this state. Market competition will do more for the economy than any government regulation could ever do!

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Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-73, Jamestown/Middletown) is chair of the House Committee on Innovation, Internet, Technology and she serves on House Finance Committee.

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Localblogging, 02871, GA, broadband

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