Rep. Waters introduces bipartisan legislation that would help further rural broadband expansion

A bill from Rep. Kevin Waters that would further the effort to expand rural broadband in Washington received a hearing in the House Innovation, Community and Economic Development, and Veterans Committee Tuesday.
A bill from Rep. Kevin Waters that would further the effort to expand rural broadband in Washington, received a hearing in the House Innovation, Community and Economic Development, and Veterans Committee Tuesday. Photo courtesy Washington State House Republicans

House Bill 1982 would codify the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) Rural Broadband program

A bill from Rep. Kevin Waters that would further the effort to expand rural broadband in Washington received a hearing in the House Innovation, Community and Economic Development, and Veterans Committee Tuesday. House Bill 1982 would codify the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) Rural Broadband program.

“I am a proud CERB board member and champion their efforts to expand their lending and grant services to help strengthen our state broadband,” said Waters, R-Stevenson.

Since 2018, CERB has operated a Rural Broadband Program with funding from the capital budget, which provides grants and loans to local governments and federally recognized tribes. The program finances the cost to build infrastructure to provide high-speed, open-access broadband service to rural and underserved communities for the purposes of economic development or community development.

By codifying the bill, it would formalize and make permanent the authority for CERB to have a loan and grant program for broadband to rural communities.

“CERB has done great work over the last five years with this loan and grant program, including infusing $38 million into broadband through other revenues,” said Waters. “They are a trusted partner for economic development within rural communities and have proven their commitment to these communities throughout Washington.”

Among the many supporters of the legislation are the Makah Tribal Council, the Washington Education Association, and the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.

“I’m excited to see this bipartisan bill move forward as it would allow CERB to have the authority to use their existing funds and capabilities to help expand and fund broadband in our rural and tribal communities, added Waters.”

If the bill becomes law, it would not require any new staffing or additional funding, as projects would continue to be funded from CERB’s biennial appropriation.

The 2024 legislative session began on Jan. 8 and is scheduled to last 60 days.

Information provided by Washington State House Republicans houserepublicans.wa.gov


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