Colorado Rotarians get their state connected
Top: Past RI Director Grant Wilkins and John Klug, a member of the Rotary Club of Denver, make an appeal for high-speed Internet during a video on YouTube. Bottom: The fiber optic cable on the left can carry 16 million conversations while the larger copper cable to the right carries only 300.
To celebrate "100 Years of Rotary in Colorado," the Rotary Club of Denver, Colorado, USA, working with other Rotary clubs in the state, helped obtain a $100 million stimulus grant from the U.S. government to bring low-cost, high-speed Internet to the entire state.
"At present we’re 42nd in the nation in terms of Internet connectivity," says John Klug, a member of the Denver Rotary club. "But soon, our schoolchildren, even in remote rural locations, will be able to operate an electron microscope located at a major research center from their schoolroom, or control in real time an astrophysical facility in Australia."
"The capacity and speed will be so great that every hospital, every library, every museum, every business, every government entity, and virtually every residence in the state will also be able to receive extraordinary access and Internet speed," Klug adds.
The Internet project grew out of the Denver club’s centennial project, which was to partner with History Colorado to create a series of satellite museum sites, linked by Internet to the main facility in Denver. Students throughout the state would then be no more than 50 miles from one of these branches, where they could take part in live video presentations and access exhibits remotely. Denver Rotarians discovered, however, that the broadband Internet service necessary to support the satellite locations was either inaccessible or too costly in many parts of the state.
Club members latched onto the idea of working with EAGLE-Net, a technology-purchasing cooperative for Colorado schools, to seek funds set aside by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for expanding broadband connectivity. EAGLE-Net’s previous attempt to secure a grant was unsuccessful, but Rotarians had something the cooperative lacked.
"Rotary is trusted, Rotary is everywhere, and Rotary is nonpolitical," Klug says. "We decided that by working with all Rotary clubs in the state, we could combine our strengths, and our huge collective Rolodexes to get this done."
Klug and Past RI Director Grant Wilkins met with the state's three RI district governors to get all 144 Rotary clubs behind the idea. They then lined up the support of former U.S. Senator Hank Brown and former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm for a YouTube video touting the proposal.
Rotarians throughout the state beseeched school boards, elected officials, and business groups to get involved. The Colorado Legislature passed a joint resolution supporting the initiative, which was then forwarded to the Colorado congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.
In September, just seven months after Rotary took up the initiative, the state received news its request would be fully funded, along with another $35 million of in-kind donations from major players in the technology industry. EAGLE-Net will build the 5,000-mile fiber-optic network over the next three years.
Klug said the campaign shows what Rotarians can do when they band together.
"If you have something sufficiently important to your region, or even to your city, work with other Rotary clubs wherever possible and bring the considerable force of Rotary on the issue," he said. "Use the power of Rotary, our vast strengths, to combine with private interests and other government entities, and in doing so, you will accomplish more than a single club could ever accomplish on its own."
The Denver club will pursue its centennial project with History Colorado as the broadband network is built and work with other Colorado Rotary clubs to support and help fund the satellite locations.