Advanced Communication Tools Important to Emergency Response, Economic Growth
Early last year, I joined the National Weather Service in Jackson to celebrate state-of-the-art upgrades to its Doppler Weather Radar system. The life-saving potential of these improvements was immediately apparent as a powerful tornado tore through the Hattiesburg area in February.
On April 28 of this year, as multiple tornados left a swath of destruction across our state, the National Weather Service’s early warning system again proved its value in helping Mississippians get out of harm’s way. Although the storms took precious lives and caused extensive damage, we can be thankful for the technology that provided critical information ahead of time, alerting people to take shelter and potentially saving hundreds of lives in the process. The swift action of forecasters, local officials, and first responders validated the importance of coordination and communication when disaster strikes.
Boosting Internet Access and Quality
Ensuring that all Americans benefit from communications technology is a major component of my work on the Senate Commerce Committee. As the lead Republican on the Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee, I have a key role in shaping policymaking decisions to expand high-speed Internet access. Connecting Mississippians to vital communications tools has a positive impact on business, education, health care, and emergency response.
In many ways, the vast influence of the Internet can be compared to the construction and reach of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. The deployment of broadband Internet via DSL, fiber, wireless, and satellite has made tremendous strides in boosting access and building infrastructure. This access and quality are essential to economic development and the ability of our small businesses – which once relied mostly on local customers – to compete in new marketplaces.
Bridging the Digital Divide
Challenges, however, still exist in the widespread adoption of broadband Internet services, especially in rural areas. In fact, approximately one-third of Americans forgo Internet access even when it is available to them, with many citing concerns about the cost of service. Experts say Mississippi ranks near the bottom among states when it comes to Internet usage.
Federal policies that help foster innovation can assist the broadband industry in providing cutting-edge service to Mississippians at competitive rates. Put simply, today’s telecommunications priorities should reflect new developments in technology and how consumers prefer to receive information. All Americans – no matter where they live – should have the opportunity to take full advantage of our emerging broadband economy.
Mississippi Launches Telehealth Effort
One example of the power of technology to transform lives and communities is Mississippi’s new statewide telehealth initiative, which Gov. Phil Bryant announced in January. The effort builds on a decade of Mississippi’s telehealth success by coordinating a team of public and private organizations to treat 200 diabetes patients in the Delta. With telehealth, care from clinicians at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is available in local settings to patients who might not be able to access these resources otherwise.
Mississippians should not be left behind when it comes to new technology and communication. We know technological tools can make a real difference – boosting economic growth, improving educational resources, and protecting lives and property against the next big storm.
– The Wicker Report, May 4, 2014, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker is a former President of the Ole Miss Associated Student Body.