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January 22, 2009 3:39 am

Powell a leading community in technology

Written by Tribune Staff

This week, a historic one for all Americans, also marks a significant milestone for the community of Powell.

The world watched Tuesday as President Barack Obama took the oath of office, making him the 44th U.S. president and first African-American to lead the United States.

Also earlier this week, Powell's citywide fiber-optic network, Powellink, was officially completed.

The two events — Obama's inauguration and Powell's fiber-optic network — may not seem like they relate to one another.

Yet Powellink is the kind of project that Obama supports and has made a priority.

Last February on the campaign trail, Obama said, “Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age ... let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns across America.”

After his November election, he said, “It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online.”

Powell blazed the trail with its fiber-to-the-home network — a feat most rural communities only dream of.

As Obama looks to extend broadband lines in rural America, Powell won't be one of the towns looking for federal funding to create a network. It will be one of the cities that others look to as an example.

“It just shows that Powell is innovative and ahead of the learning curve,” said Mayor Scott Mangold.

Other communities in northern Wyoming also are leading the way. Ten Sleep already offers citywide fiber-optic service, and plans currently are underway to build a network in Cody.

Powell is fortunate to have city leaders who envisioned this project and saw it through. And all communities in rural America are fortunate to have a president who values the importance of broadband in small towns.