Republican women in the legislature announced a package of legislation today. My attention was caught by a potential expansion of broadband competition.

The 21 legislators have bills to encourage more people to open child care facilities by making rules easier to understand; to specify reading is taught in school by scientifically acceptable methods; to divert lesser juvenile offenders to community-based services rather than lockups; to encourage the designation of the UAMS cancer institute as a national research center so as qualify for more grant money (this is a multi-year effort that is said to require an annual funding stream of $10 to $20 million and $30 million in private money), and this from primary sponsor, Sen. Breanne Davis. I have questions out on this last one, but hurry the day if it opens the door for local governments to get in the broadband business. Phone and cable TV companies have a virtual lock on that business thanks to 1997 law.  Some cities around the country have done wonderful things with broadband networks and free WiFi. You may have heard Arkansas lags behind most states in computer access.


UPDATE: I got this response from Davis on her broadband bill:

Our legislation will repeal the municipal broadband prohibition and allow cities and counties to partner with any broadband provider of their choice to study and deploy broadband. Arkansas is leaving federal money, our tax dollars, on the table by continuing with this prohibition. This change in Arkansas is long overdue. 

Re the cancer effort, UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said:


We are currently at work on becoming the first cancer center in Arkansas to achieve NCI Designation. It’s awarded through a very competitive assessment process and to achieve it cancer centers have to demonstrate outstanding high-quality basic laboratory, clinical and population-based cancer research. There are currently 70 NCI designated centers in 36 states. About 68% of the funds the NCI awards for research and clinical trials are awarded only to NCI-designated centers. NCI designation will help Arkansas cancer patients stay home for treatment by providing more access to clinical trials and new therapies not available anywhere in Arkansas. It’s also estimated that NCI designation will have an annual economic impact on the state of more than $70 million and create nearly 1,600 jobs.

In order to apply, UAMS must increase its current amount of NCI-funded research. To do that we estimate that we need to raise about $30 million to recruit more NCI-funded scientists to UAMS as well as to help with the ongoing current recruitment of a world-class Cancer Institute director. Donor and community support is critical to our ability to be able to achieve NCI designation. We are extremely grateful to Senator Irvin and Rep. Gray and the other members of the General Assembly and the Governor for their support of our efforts..