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There’s no better place to build and grow Rhode Island’s blue economy than Greater Newport.  Growing a sustainable blue economy is an economic development strategy that attracts talent, creates jobs in coastal communities and leverages our strong defense, marine trades, manufacturing and high tech industries.

The uniqueness of Narragansett Bay’s ecosystem and physical infrastructure is conducive to research, undersea technology development, data collection on salinity, rising sea levels and climate change. Leaders in government, business and academic research are applying for a federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to develop Narragansett Bay into a “smart bay” to advance new technologies and ocean renewables for a blue economy. This is the perfect integration of science and research for economic development.   

To attract and retain high-tech innovative companies, scientists, experts and researchers, a significant investment in broadband infrastructure is necessary to ensure our coastal communities have fast, reliable, affordable high-speed internet to compete in an innovative 21st century blue economy. 

Internet expectations and bandwidth needs have grown exponentially as our internet experience has become much more interactive with remote work, video conferencing, telehealth, online education, and entertainment. Today’s internet use requires high upload speeds and historical data shows that future requirements of bandwidth will double every two to three years. Our reliance on this utility will only continue to grow.

Today’s high-tech businesses require huge upload speeds for data collection. Companies like Inspire Environmental and Jai Robotics, both blue tech companies that started on Aquidneck Island, require immense upload speeds for their ocean floor and aquatic data collection needs. We need to ensure these companies have the resources they need to stay on Aquidneck Island, and enable new high-tech companies to start up and relocate here.   

A significant investment in our broadband infrastructure is necessary to attract and retain high-tech innovative companies, scientists, experts and researchers. We must ensure that our coastal communities have the fast, reliable and affordable high-speed internet needed to compete in a 21st century innovative blue economy. 

  • A recent report from Connect Greater Newport that included GIS mapping of the state’s broadband infrastructure validated what many business owners and residents already know:  Many small and medium businesses face broadband capacity constraints impacting their businesses, including tourist-heavy locations on the waterfront.
  • Large private businesses, institutions of higher education and U.S. defense locations generally have access to dedicated, high-bandwidth, fiber-optic broadband.
  • Greater Newport and the state have available middle-mile fiber resources that can be leveraged to assist in closing last-mile gaps. 

The research clearly points to the case for more investment in last-mile broadband infrastructure enhancements. This is essential to economic development efforts, particularly around the state’s priority of investing in and supporting a competitive blue economy strategy and the development of a smart bay for research and development purposes. 

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero’s House bill 7083 creates a Broadband Advisory Council working with Rhode Island Commerce for transparency, accountability and oversight for federal dollars with an eye toward future technologies. 

We look forward to supporting our state and municipal leaders as they consider innovative solutions to connect the last mile to the middle mile of fiber running throughout the state. The state is poised to receive over $200 million dollars in federal dollars between ARPA and the Infrastructure Investment Act. 

Let’s use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide fast, affordable reliable high-speed broadband solutions to grow the blue economy for our region.  

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) is chairwoman of House Committee on Innovation, Internet, and Technology. Erin Donovan-Boyle is executive director of Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce.

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