Technology
The Colville reservation in eastern Washington state doesn't have broadband internet, which makes it difficult for tribal members to communicate with doctors over the web. Gov. Inslee's proposal would bring broadband to rural communities across the state.
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The Colville reservation in eastern Washington state doesn't have broadband internet, which makes it difficult for tribal members to communicate with doctors over the web. Gov. Inslee's proposal would bring broadband to rural communities across the state.

High-speed internet on Inslee's wish list for Washington state

Washington's governor wants the state to start treating the internet like it treats electricity: as a necessity.

This may be unfamiliar in tech-friendly Seattle.

Thousands of Washingtonians, mostly in rural or tribal communities, don't have broadband internet. It means waiting minutes or hours to access the internet, upload videos, and take school exams, if there's internet access at all.

Governor Jay Inslee is now proposing high-speed internet access for everyone, which would take years if the Legislature adopts his plan.

"It'll be a greater state when every one of these communities has access to broadband," Inslee said. "The obvious reason is for economic purposes, to allow small businesses to get access; broadband is necessary to be able to make the world our market."

Inslee has proposed a statewide broadband office, and has asked lawmakers to approve it. It would determine how many people lack broadband, then give grants and loans for communities to install it.

Senator Lisa Wellman, Democrat of Mercer Island, has sponsored the bill. One of her concerns is rural schools.

"Our testing is done online," Wellman said. "Many of our new resources in the classroom are online, and at many of our schools, only two or three kids at a time can be online."

Wellman said Washington has a digital divide. "We've got to close that opportunity gap," she said.

The Colville Indian Reservation doesn't have broadband and therefore can't communicate with doctors online.

Addressing lawmakers on Wednesday, Susie Allen of the Colville Business Council called broadband an urgent need. "Our tribal members are diagnosed daily with cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease," she said.