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Riley to Testify at Public Hearing Urging Utility Companies to Help Bridge Digital Divide in Cumberland County

Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley will testify on Tuesday at a public hearing in Greenwich Township with utility company officials in an effort to help bridge the digital divide that is still pervasive in western Cumberland County.

The hearing was called by Senator Jeff Van Drew and will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morris Goodwin School, 839 Ye Greate Street, Greenwich, where Riley is a technology teacher.

“Despite being at the confluence of several of the country’s biggest media markets, certain parts of our state have all but been forgotten when it comes to 21st century technology,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “The limitations we face, when it comes to a lack of high speed Internet service and cell phone access hinders education, impedes the work of first responders and stymies economic growth.”

Riley welcomed the hearing after reaching out to utility providers numerous times in an attempt to address the needed upgrades in telecommunications infrastructure for parts of Cumberland County, including reliable interference-free landline phone service, high-speed internet access, and mobile phone and wireless broadband coverage.

“Despite repeated attempts, we’ve had little success in convincing utility companies to address these long-standing telecommunications issues,” added Riley. “These infrastructure deficiencies have serious implications for so many facets of our life. As a technology teacher, it’s difficult to assign projects that involve computers and the Internet because students at home do not have access. It’s a hindrance to their education, both short and long term.

“These issues also affect public safety and our economic development. Antiquated phone systems have produced interference for 911 services. Meanwhile, businesses lack a competitive edge without high-speed Internet and adequate cell phone services.

“Many people probably take communications access for granted because it’s abundant throughout most parts of our state. With technology progressing so rapidly, we can’t afford to ignore rural parts of New Jersey any longer. This is a serious issue that has garnered national attention during the President’s last two State of the Union addresses. Ultimately, our future, the future of our children, and our economic security rests on whether we are equipped with the latest technological advances to compete in a global economy.”