CTF Highlights from the Field: June 2021
The dog days of summer may be here, but Connect the Future is moving full steam ahead on our critical work to promote the availability of reliable, high-speed broadband for all unserved Americans. Throughout June we continued to express support for state legislator, policymaker, and key stakeholders’ efforts to eliminate existing barriers that hinder or delay expanding broadband access to the millions of unserved rural homes, businesses, and anchor institutions across the country.
- The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released a new report proposing three “pragmatic principles” aimed at policymakers that seek to close the rural broadband access gap. The principles include: o Ensuring that government programs supporting broadband deployment should stop funding network overbuilding and focus instead on unserved areas while at the same time increasing program transparency and accountability.
- Making every dollar invested in broadband stretch further by eliminating impediments to deployment, such as excess pole replacement costs and pole attachment rent.
- Guaranteeing that government programs supporting broadband deployment are not bogged down by outdated restrictions and requirements designed for antiquated telephone networks. Read our summary of the report here.
- The National Grange sent a letter to 16 bipartisan legislators regarding the recently announced bipartisan infrastructure proposal containing $65 billion for broadband funding. The letter explains that effective distribution of these funds, and a focus on reaching unserved areas first, is critical to closing the digital divide. They also identified the need for tech and provider neutrality and modernizing pole attachment rules to speed deployment. The letter was sent to Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Angus King (D-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Todd Young (R-IN), and Representatives Jim Clyburn (SC-6) and Frank Pallone (NJ-6).
- The Broadband Deployment Act, or HB 1239, took effect on July 1, bringing broadband access to more families, students, farmers, and businesses in the Sunshine State’s rural areas. The law addresses long-standing issues surrounding broadband providers’ access to utility poles and their ability to attach new infrastructure to these poles. Connect the Future applauds Governor Ron DeSantis, State Representative Josie Tomkow, and State Senator Danny Burgess for their leadership in helping to close the digital divide. Read more about the new law here.
- Brewster Bevis, Vice President of Associated Industries of Florida, penned an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat praising Florida’s new Broadband Deployment Act as a critical step taken toward addressing the existing barriers that hinder the expansion of high-speed internet service. He urged Florida lawmakers to continue their work to overcome the remaining, toughest-to-tackle barriers to universal broadband access in the Sunshine State. Read the full op-ed here.
- State Representative William Lawrence (R-District 70) penned an op-ed, published in The Ledger Independent, that calls for a renewed focus by policymakers in both Frankfort and Washington on bridging the broadband gap. In the piece, Rep. Lawrence celebrated House Bills 320 and 382, which allocate $300 million to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas of Kentucky but urged the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to establish clearer rules regarding utility pole attachments to protect broadband providers from burdensome delays and unpredictable costs. Read the full op-ed here.
- CTF congratulated House Bill 1505 co-sponsors Chairman Chris Paddie, Senator Kelly Hancock, and all the bill’s supporters for getting this critical piece of legislation past the finish line. HB 1505, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, takes direct aim at current barriers to building out broadband infrastructure, such as the process of attaching broadband infrastructure to certain types of utility poles. The new law also establishes a pole replacement fund and clarifies the respective responsibilities of both pole owners and broadband providers. Read more about the new law here.