FCC Chairman Ajit Pai leads broadband round table in Emporia Thursday Featured

ESU President Allison Garret welcomes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. ESU President Allison Garret welcomes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Tagan Trahoon/KVOE News

Emporia State University welcomed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai Thursday evening for a special round table discussion.

Thursday's conversation centred around rural broadband internet access and economic development. Chairman Pai was joined by representatives of local service providers, Emporia city officials and local business owners.

Chairman Pai began the evening's discussions by detailing some of the initiatives the FCC is working on in order to make broadband service more accessible to rural communities across the nation. He says one major focus of the FCC has been updating their rules and regulations to make it easier for companies to build digital infrastructure.

Pai says Emporia is a great example of rural communities with an already impressive existing infrastructure which makes it a prime area for entrepreneurship. He explains many communities such as Emporia are perfect "beachheads" for entrepreneurs who want to live in smaller rural communities but need the solid digital infrastructure of larger communities to sustain their business needs.

In attendance for Thursday's round table was Rick Tidwell of ValuNet Fiber. According to Tidwell, there is a large desire from providers to develop and build infrastructure within smaller communities.

However, Tidwell says to do this it takes three things from those communities. Cooperation, an eagerness for development and -- in some cases -- a significant financial investment.

Dean of the School of Business Dr. Ed Bashaw tells KVOE News he feels the broadband available within Emporia currently is "sufficient." A major focus for him, and many Emporia city leaders is working to build job opportunities for students around the existing local infrastructure to help keep students local and expand the job market at the same time.

An example is the THINK Emporia initiative, a proposed collaborative effort between several local entities to stimulate entrepreneurship by developing tech-based jobs in Emporia and surrounding communities.

Thursday's roundtable was organized by the office of Congressman Roger Marshall and was held in ESU's Cremer Hall School of Business. Photos are online at KVOE.com.

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