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Senate Bill 622 focus of Thursday's public hearing<BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;


   Members of the Commission on Economic and Community Development's advisory board will be in town to hear local importance of being included in telecommunication upgrades
   A meeting to take up the issue of local telecommunication needs has been scheduled for later this week.
   The Chamber of Commerce has issued a call to business, government, and community members to attend a one hour session on Thursday, March 15, to make clear the need for telecommunications in Prineville and Crook County to an Advisory Board for the Commission on Economic and Community Development.
   Last month, the Commission directed the advisory board for the telecommunication legislation, Senate Bill 622, to seek input from affected communities. Senate Bill 622 stipulated that in exchange for deregulation, US West now known as QWest, would invest 70 million dollars into a state-wide telecommunications infrastructure. One of the provisions was to particularly link rural areas around the state.
   Round one applications resulted in the Commission authorizing five major fiber optic rings around the state. Chamber of Commerce Director Diane Bohle said that while this is good news, there is lingering concern that Crook County and Prineville will still not have a back-up protection system if the main fiber optic system is cut or goes down.
   The second round of applications would solve that issue as it includes a mini-ring to give Prineville and Crook County redundancy. Redundancy means that there would be a back up mechanism for the area's telecommunications system. Also included in the second round application are requests for voice mail and DSL systems.
   The second round of applications for telecommunications services for Prineville and Crook County was part of a regional application. The problem, Bohle commented, "is that the second round regional application received a poor rating. It was rated last of all the applications by the Advisory Board. In February, Crook County Judge Scott Cooper and I traveled to Salem to testify to the Commission asking for them to reconsider the Advisory Board's first round of recommendations and ask for public process. Our requests were heard and emphasized by the letters I handed the Commissioners from 60 Chamber businesses.
   As a result of that meeting, the Commission directed the Advisory Board to seek public input from affected communities." From that direction, Thursday's meeting was scheduled.
   Bohle and Cooper attended another meeting last week with the same Advisory Board in Bend. Bohle said "At that meeting it became clear that we need to show up in force on Thursday, and voice our needs and priorities for telecommunications for Prineville and Crook County."
   Prineville needs public input to offset the poor rating our application received, she continued. "It is critical that each of the 60 businesses who wrote letters to the Commission attend the public session.
   At the meeting on Thursday, we need to put faces and voices behind the letters we handed to the Commission.
   We need to tell them, face to face, why we need a fiber-optic mini-ring, voice mail and DSL services. Fiber optic telecommunications systems are critical to support key parts of infrastructure such as government, hospital, education and business communications systems."
   The meeting will be held at the Prineville Fire Hall, beginning at 10 a.m. All interested members of the public are urged to attend and to voice their belief in the importance to the local economy. For more information, contact Bohle at the Chamber of Commerce office, 447-6304.