The Great American Station Foundation works to help communities transform their old and neglected railway stations of the 19th and 20th centuries into new and vital transportation centers of the 21st century. In our new economy, the health and vitality of a community is as dependent upon the transportation of data as it is upon the transportation of goods and people. And, just as in bygone days when a railway station brought prosperity to a town, in modern days high-speed data links are the key to prosperity. Unfortunately, this new prosperity has largely bypassed rural America as telecommunications giants race to build out more profitable urban areas. The E-Station initiative is designed to help alleviate this growing digital divide.
High-speed telecommunications lines connecting urban centers are often run along rail corridors, passing directly through, but not surfacing at, many rural communities. E-Station will bring these lines out of the ground and into a local access point, giving rural communities a physical link to high-speed telecommunications networks.
E-Station also takes the next step, integrating these new access points into economic and workforce development programs and facilities that form the backbone of the new digital economy. Under-utilized or vacant structures at the station or in the station vicinity will be provided with the connectivity and the basic office infrastructure necessary to attract dot.com entrepreneurs, call centers, or other information technology enterprises to the community. These incubator centers will also offer facilities for computer training programs offered through local school systems, community colleges, and universities. Local training programs will help E-Station communities build the highly skilled workforce infrastructure needed to attract and operate emerging telecom-based businesses.
The final step in implementing the E-Station initiative will be to market these newly developed local resources to outside e-businesses seeking a connected site and a trained workforce.
We have just begun a six-month planning phase to develop strategic and tactical plans for developing a pilot program to prove the E-Station concept. Three pilot sites have been selected: Las Vegas, NM and Meridian, MS. During this planning phase we will develop a blueprint for our activities, and identify and begin building the partnerships and relationships needed to implement the pilot program.
No single entity can bridge the digital divide affecting rural America. E-Station's ultimate success will depend upon our creating effective financial and technical partnerships with large telecommunications carriers, major equipment providers, local government and non-profit agencies, and educational institutions.