Senator John T. Yudichak

Senator Senator John T. Yudichak Closing KINBERCON 2016

Full Transcript of Senator John T. Yudichak Closing Keynote at KINBERCON 2016
April 12, 2016, Philadelphia  

Good afternoon. As was noted, I’m state senator John Yudichak and I bring you greetings from the PA state capitol…where things are running about as smoothly as dial-up internet service.

The speed at which we have been downloading the state budget has been painfully slow, and the partisan virus that has infected Harrisburg these days has nearly crashed all governing circuits.

Thankfully, on the issue of technology, many legislators of both parties have found common ground and forged critical coalitions to advance investments and new laws that improve access to technology for all Pennsylvanians.

Most recently, the General Assembly, worked together with industry leaders on a comprehensive rewrite of the 911 Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act. The resulting legislation, Act 12 of 2015, ensured funding and improvements for county communications, as well as new investments in critical 911-related response capabilities.

In the field of health care and technology, the legislature passed Act 198 of 2014 requiring a council of health care professionals to advise DHSon strategies to reduce the growing costs of the Medical Assistance program through telemedicine and electronic health records management.

In 2012 under Act 121, we established the PA eHealth Partnership Authority and required the creation of a statewide health information exchange that safely and electronically shares health care records and other patient information.

Another popular statewide data system, created in 2011 under Act 18, established a searchable website, known as PennWATCH, that details expenditures and investments made by every state agency – so taxpayers, with great ease and accessibility, can track how their money is being spent.

Among these many state legislative actions, a federally funded, state driven technology project stands out above all others in the Commonwealth.

It is one of the most significant investments in our knowledge-based economy in the history of PA …the construction of the PA Research and Education Network championed by KINBER.

For years, I was member of the Board of Governors of PA’s State System of Higher Education and I remember very well PASSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh, the founding chair of KINBER, extolling the limitless potential of constructing a high-speed broadband network that would foster collaboration among colleges, hospitals, businesses and governments.

I was all in from the beginning of KINBER. I am not a tech guy…but I’ve watched technology transform the world around me. In my first campaign for public office, in 1996, I had a mobile phone in a bag that had to be plugged into a cigarette lighter. I must have looked like a communications officer in a MASH unit dragging that thing around.

Quickly came the flip cell phone, the palm pilot, the blackberry and then the iPhone. I ran through them all. I went from being tied to a desktop computer, to the mobility of a laptop, to my newest addiction, the iPad.

Technology keeps changing, and we all keep chasing the changes.

There is very little in the modern economy that has not been touched by technology.

The fiscal accountability for state government has been improved through programs like PennWATCH that, again, allow taxpayers to easily track government spending from a smart phone.

Businesses have vastly improved their productivity through automation, telecommunications and real-time collaboration that are all made possible by high-speed internet access.

Hospitals are better able to manage costs and deliver access to quality healthcare because of the ever persistent tide of technological advancements in medical research and the delivery of care.

And educational institutions are constantly changing the ways we learn through technology in the classroom.

Whether it is a hands-on 3D manufacturing project in a STEAM based afterschool program, like the SHINE program in Luzerne and Carbon Counties…. or whether it’s a major research and development institution where ideas are going from the white board to the board room through the commercialization of a classroom innovation that grows into an emerging new company.

KINBER and the PA Research and Education Network are uniquely positioned to fuel Pennsylvania’s technological revolution.

KINBER has built a broadband superhighway where entrepreneurs in education, health care, business and government can drive technological advancements and push the boundaries of ingenuity to generate jobs and improve the quality of lives of all Pennsylvanians.

The federal government, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, made a smart bet on the future of broadband internet service. Study after study point to one indisputable fact… investing in the expansion of broadband services sets the stage for the creation of thousands of new jobs.

KINBER has had some tremendous success stories.

  • At Bucknell University, KINBER is providing critical access to high speed internet for small businesses. Capacity for services to clients doubled when the university’s Entrepreneur’s Incubator connected to KINBER….and more capacity, as you know, means more business.
  • KINBER’s Member Exchange Service also successfully displayed its enhanced capabilities by transferring a 175 GB file of genome data from the University of Pittsburgh to Geisinger Health System.
  • Geisinger has used that genome data, captured through KINBER, to establish a GenomeFIRST Medicine program at the Precision Health Center in Luzerne County where highly specialized teams of medical and technology professionals use genetic information to identify health risks and guide the development of preventive medical strategies.

KINBER can be the catalyst we need in Luzerne County to finally shake the image of king coal from our boot straps and become the thriving center of a new tech-based economy.

With the best educational assets, the fastest broadband internet services, affordable, abundant energy sources, a skilled, highly educated workforce and countless cultural, quality of life amenities…Luzerne County can reinvent its economy; if it seizes the opportunities presented through the PA Research and Education Network.

KINBER’s potential is limited only by our imagination and by the one thing that dooms all great revolutions … Apathy.

If interest wanes…if the enthusiasm for the KINBER revolution is diminished in the legislature, then the best laid plans of scientists and entrepreneurs will wither and the investment of the American taxpayers will not realize its full potential.

Pennsylvania, through the Governor’s office and the General Assembly, needs to renew its commitment to KINBER…we need to build bi-partisan, bi-cameral coalitions to advance new investments and new strategies that push the KINBER into every corner of PA.

I recently sat in an Appropriations meeting and listened to the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, John Quigley, detail how inspectors in the field are still filling reports with a pen and a clip board.

No iPhone application to speed up inspections…no wireless iPad connection to process real time reviews and issues of permits.

PA’s leading permitting agency for business, where time is money, is stuck in the 19th century…we have the 21st century superhighway in the hands of KINBER, and DEP is looking to buy pencil sharpeners in bulk at Sam’s Club.

It made me think…. Is Pennsylvania… and its county and local governments taking full advantage of KINBER? Do we need a State Technology officer embedded within KINBER to connect, collaborate and cajole stakeholders to see the advantages of KINBER?

To me, the delivery of broadband services is just as important to the PA economy as the infrastructure investment we are making in our roads, bridges, ports and railways.

States all around us have found ways to maximize the broadband assets while PA is, in many respects, idling its broadband rocket ship in neutral.

In New York, Gov. Cuomo created a Connect New York Broadband Grant Program which has awarded more than $70 million in grants to expand broadband in rural and underserved areas.

Connect NY is the largest state-level broadband funding commitment in the nation.

New York also implemented a $500,000 broadband grant program requiring a private match that will spur $1 billion in public-private capital to upgrade connectivity.

Additionally, New York issued a $2 billion SMART SCHOOLS bond to connect broadband in classroom and neighborhoods.

The SMART SCHOOLS initiative is intended to close the “homework gap” and eliminate obstacles that currently prevent one-third of students from using the internet for school work and school projects.

New York is a perfect example of how public sector leadership can make a difference in pushing technology and leveraging economic growth.

Here in Pennsylvania, we need to regain the initiative. We need to build momentum. We need to keep the broadband revolution rolling through our cities, our suburbs and throughout rural PA.

It may be time to establish a specific office at the highest level of state government that can assist KINBER in helping lead a coalition of stakeholders to take KINBER to the next level.

What exactly is the next level?

FIRST, the next level can include reaching and incorporating every county and local governmental unit to ensure greater interconnectivity that improves public safety efforts and delivery of municipal services.

SECOND, let’s expand greater access to fiber and wireless broadband for business. A start-up business in Scranton, Erie or State College should be able to share information with the idea of capturing market share worldwide regardless of its physical location.

In Wilkes-Barre, we are working on a project called Innovation Squared, a collaboration of area colleges and private developers looking to seize on a pool of local IT graduates to attract tech-based companies to Luzerne County.

One company is already interested, a division of eBay is looking to expand and create 200 IT jobs at a starting salary of $65,000…nearly three times the median income in NEPA.

The project can be a game changer Wilkes-Barre’s downtown – especially if Innovation Squared is tied to KINBER and every technological advantage is available to tech companies looking to invest in NEPA.

THIRD, let’s examine expansion of internal connectivity.

In Luzerne County, for instance, KINBER has connections with Penn State campuses in Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre and at Luzerne County Community College.

However, KINBER does not have direct access to other colleges like Wilkes Universities, who just developed a new neuroscience institute, or our international airport that is eager to enter the growing market of third party logistics, or countless state and local agencies that are all losing ground because of outdated technology.

Luzerne County’s story is similar to many other stories in PA 67 counties.

PA needs to address the KINBER “apathy gap” and bring connectivity to every organization, every business and every community.

FOURTH, we need to connect more dots in rural areas and expand to underserved urban areas.

KINBER now has access points in 51 of 67 counties with connections in more than 70 locations over the 1,800 mile network.

Yet, there are many entities that still cannot connect to KINBER’s network. WVIA TV, our local PBS station in NEPA, is located within four miles of the KINBER fiber lines but, to date, connectivity to the PennREN network is out of reach.

WVIA is trying to make use of a system that would help it upload high definition video files and help it meet the demands of its increasingly popular programming like Sesame Street.

I have four daughters, all under the age of ten, and if you want to see angry – try waiting ten minutes for Elmo to download because of slow internet service.

And, even more troubling, NEPA has businesses who are threatening to relocate because they cannot connect to broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission reports that 20,000 people and hundreds of businesses in Luzerne County and Carbon County do not have access to broadband.

In the Crestwood Industrial Park, there is a graphic printer who is among a group of businesses that may have to relocate because of the scarcity of broadband network connections. The company needs a fiber line to manage graphic files for its commercial printing operation if it is going to compete with companies from around the country. It’s that simple.

Yet, those few steps, those few miles that separate these entities and businesses from KINBER might as well be a universe away.

In fiber networks, a few feet without a connection becomes a chasm of immense depths – with information and job opportunities left to float away into the abyss.

The stories go on and on…it is likely many of your communities have faced the same challenges as NEPA.

The challenge before us is significant, but we face it together. The road has already been paved with good intentions and good fiber.

Now, we need to build exit ramps to new businesses and new partners that want to help us fulfill KINBER’s mission and continue the KINBER Revolution.

What our goal should be is to plug in those connections that are now expressing an immediate need and generate even more outlets so that the broadband network is available to governments and the private sector.

KINBER is PA’s connection to the 21st century knowledge based economy….KINBER is the bridge to a more innovative, job-creating PA….KINBER is the anchor of a technological revolution that can unleash the talented minds of a generation of Pennsylvanians who will push the boundaries of science, business and government.

Yes, KINBER can be the fuel of new PA economy…an economy that catches the imagination of the entrepreneurs from around the world and brings the world economy to PA.

We must seize this moment in PA and rally around the tremendous foundation already established by the KINBER organization and continue your great work to connect PA to the future…a brighter, more prosperous future where high-speed broadband connections are at the fingertips of every Pennsylvanian.

Thank you.