Governor Gregoire celebrates state broadband expansion - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Governor Gregoire celebrates state broadband expansion

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KENNEWICK, Wash. --Governor Christine Gregoire came to Kennewick Thursday to celebrate the completion of broadband expansion projects bringing high-speed Internet access to rural communities of southeast Washington

Gregoire and other leaders spoke at the Kennewick Branch of the Mid-Columbia Library. The broadband projects are a joint effort between local PUDs, private companies, ports, cities, counties and Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), which is overseeing construction of two federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants totaling $140 million to bring high-speed Internet to mostly rural areas of the state.

Route completion in the Mid-Columbia region brings high-speed Internet connectivity to the communities of Kahlotus, Othello and Warden.

"We live in a connected society where access to high-speed Internet is a necessity to stay competitive with the rest of the world," said Governor Gregoire. "Through our focus in the last several years, 99% of Washington's population is connected and today we cross another milestone in reaching rural areas in Southeast Washington. This progress has allowed businesses to grow, benefited schools and hospitals, and given our residents new opportunities," said Gregoire.

Using the library's new technology center as a backdrop, speakers including the Governor, NoaNet CEO Greg Marine and Kyle Cox, Executive Director of Mid-Columbia Libraries, touted the benefits and opportunities this investment will create for the region's economy, public safety and quality of life.

The Mid-Columbia region is the latest to be connected as part of a statewide broadband expansion program that all-told will reach more than 170 communities and 2,000 schools, hospitals, emergency responders, libraries, colleges and universities. It's expected to be completed August 2013.