House approves governor’s rural broadband bill; Broadband leaders DeBolt, Dye support measure

By a vote of 97-1, the state House of Representatives approved a measure requested by Gov. Jay Inslee that would create the Governor’s Statewide Broadband Office. Senate Bill 5511 would also authorize the state’s Public Works Board to work with the newly-created office to administer a grant/loan program for expansion of broadband to unserved areas.

Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, and Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, who have led efforts for expansion of broadband across Washington, including rural communities, praised passage of the bill.

“Broadband is a big issue for rural economic development. Our local communities cannot adequately compete with existing low-speed access or no access at all,” said DeBolt. “We have communities that are underserved and communities that are unserved. This bill will serve those communities, make a difference for us, and help Washington move forward toward high-speed internet across the state.”

“This builds on the work that was already underway last year with the partnership of the Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Revitalization Board providing loans and grants through the local port districts. I appreciate the ability to negotiate with the governor to provide a bill that continues to invest,” said Dye. “It brings together the public utility districts, the ports and small telecommunications companies to build the broadband infrastructure needed to empower all of our communities, no matter how remote, toward a future of high-speed internet.”

The bill also creates a policy goal to provide all Washingtonians access to speeds that, at a minimum, provide 150 Mbps (megabits per second) download and upload speeds by 2028.

Funding for the Public Works Board grant and loan program is still being negotiated in the final House and Senate capital budget proposals.

The measure now returns to the Senate for concurrence.


Washington State House Republican Communications