COEUR d'ALENE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Thursday established the Idaho Broadband Task Force to improve broadband access and horsepower throughout the state.
Mike Kennedy, president of Intermax Networks, an internet service provider in Coeur d'Alene, is on the task force.
"Gov. Little is doing the right thing," Kennedy said. "Technology moves so rapidly. It's hard to keep up, but some of what makes Idaho so special — rugged countryside and large, sprawling mountainous vistas — make the construction of infrastructure difficult."
Kennedy said the task force will make recommendations for policymakers to help improve that infrastructure.
"Access to rights of way in highway construction, appropriate access to state lands and mountaintops … all of these things should be discussed and grappled with," he said.
Kennedy said he was optimistic about the broadband outlook.
"As we increase our fiber expansion in towns, the governor is showing he wants to work on improving the state's technology infrastructure all over the state, not just the Treasure Valley," Kennedy said.
Little said connectivity was key for a vibrant economy in a data-driven society.
"Improved broadband infrastructure ensures both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life," Little said.
The task force is made up of government officials, internet providers, satellite providers, cellular providers, industry representatives, universities and representatives from the tribes, counties and cities.
In addition, the task force includes Reps. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, and Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, as well as Sens. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville.
Little directed the task force to develop recommendations on ways the state can assist in furthering Idaho’s connectivity and speeds. Idaho Department of Commerce Director Tom Kealey will chair the task force.
The group will focus on mapping Idaho’s existing services and identifying gaps in Idaho’s broadband infrastructure. The mapping effort is the first step in developing a statewide broadband plan.
"For Idahoans to continue to realize commercial growth and better lives, they must have access to reliable broadband infrastructure and service," Kealey said. "The Idaho Broadband Task Force intends to directly address connectivity gaps and low-speed service and provide recommendations to the governor that will allow Idaho citizens, businesses and communities to continue on a trajectory of success."
The task force plans to meet four times before October and provide a final report to Little in November.