Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Broadband expansion bills in West Virginia, Tennessee sent to desks of governors

Broadband expansion bills to connect underserved areas in Tennessee and West Virginia have been approved by state legislatures and now go to their respective governors.

An amended version of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's bill, which earlier this month passed the Senate, on Monday passed the House, Jake Lowary reports for The Tennessean. "The amended version allows for video service to be sold as part of the broadband service, which was not part of Haslam's original proposal. The Senate also amended the minimum speed that could be provided from federal standard 25 megabits per second to 10 megabits per second and reduced the funding allocation from $45 million to $30 million."

The $30 million over three years will provide grants "to rural electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet service to their customers," Lowary writes. "The state currently ranks 29th in broadband access and more than a third of the state does not have access."

The West Virginia bill "allows communities to form internet co-ops that "would work together with a service provider to become their community’s own provider," Liz McCormick reports for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. West Virginia is the 45th most connected state, according to BroadbandNow.

The Senate made amendments to the bill that include a title amendment and one that requires the West Virginia Board of Treasury Investments "to provide from the consolidated fund a $50 million non-recourse revolving loan to the state Economic Development Authority to ensure payment or repayment of loans to broadband providers," McCormick writes. "EDA could not ensure more than $10 million within a calendar year."

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