Washington Governor Proposes Jump-Start for Telecommunications

Washington Gov. Gary Locke's proposed budget package includes a program that would deliver telecommunication services to rural areas by cutting government red tape, promoting investments in infrastructure and encouraging competition among phone companies.

Details of the plan include:

* Authorizing public utility districts and rural port districts to provide wholesale telecommunications services in their districts.

* Linking the state's 68 library districts to the K-20 Internet network.

* Easing telephone company regulations.

* Easing local governments' regulations to get infrastructure in place faster.

* Revamping universal service funding so rural areas can get affordable phone service thanks to competitive pricing.

The governor also announced a pilot project in which the state would recruit telecommunications-dependent businesses looking to expand and match them with rural communities.

Locke said his initiative would help reduce the disparity in telecommunications services between the state's urban and rural areas.

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