Bipartisan legislation from Waters to expand rural broadband receives full support from the House

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill from Rep. Kevin Waters on Thursday that would further expand rural broadband in Washington. Bipartisan House Bill 1982 would codify the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) Rural Broadband program.

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.

“This bill would continue giving access to broadband grants and funding to our tribal and rural communities,” said Waters, R-Stevenson. “As a CERB board member, I have seen firsthand the positive results CERB has already had on our rural communities in expanding broadband. I’m confident they will continue to make a huge difference and this bill would make that a little easier.”

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 already being doing great work through this program, including infusing $38 million into broadband through other revenues,” said Waters. “I fully expect that progress to continue as CERB continues to strengthen our state broadband. Additionally, the projects would still be funded from CERB’s biennial appropriation, so it would not require any new staffing or additional funding, if it becomes law.”

The legislation has many supporters, including the Makah Tribal Council, the Washington Education Association, and the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.

“I look forward to this bill taking the next step in the Senate and ultimately landing on the governor’s desk,” added Waters. “CERB is a trusted partner for economic development in rural communities and this bill would allow the board to further expand and fund broadband access to those who still don’t have it.”

House Bill 1982 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov