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A plan to increase broadband connections across the state, particularly in rural areas, was released Wednesday.

After five years of development, the Utah Broadband Project released its report, which highlights nine strategies to strengthen the state's economy by ensuring that all areas of Utah have fast access to the Internet and other telecommunications systems.

"In upcoming years, broadband access will become increasingly more important," said project manager Kelleigh Cole, citing the plan's goal to use broadband technologies to support economic development, education, transportation and public safety.

Utah Broadband Project goals include developing a commercial broadband map (the first in the country), to connect all schools and libraries to broadband networks and to teach businesses, in urban and rural areas, about how to use broadband connections to the best advantage.

"Utah is already a leader in economic growth because of its commitment to broadband," said Val Hale, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, which teamed with the Public Service Commission and the state Department of Technology Services to develop the plan and a statewide map of available broadband services.

"As the economy continues to shift online," he added, "broadband must continue to be a priority to maintain our economic growth and preserve our recognition as one of the best states for business and careers."

Mike Gorrell