West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 28

HB 3093 BROADBAND By Natalie Roper and Gaylene Miller SENATE: 31-1  HOUSE: 97-2 One of the most exciting developments of the 2017 legisla- tive session was the passage of House Bill (HB) 3093 by the West Virginia Legislature, which gives communities, consumers and internet providers a range of tools to support innovative and creative ways to increase high-speed internet access across West Virginia. This legislation was supported by a widespread coalition led by a multigenerational partnership between Gen- eration West Virginia and AARP West Virginia. Too many places in West Virginia are on the wrong side of the digital divide. HB 3093 ensures that areas of the Mountain State where the state’s major broadband providers have not found it profitable to deploy state-of-the-art broadband services can finally access the internet at the speeds today’s global economy requires. HB 3093 establishes broadband enhancement and expan- sion policies by providing for a range of solutions to connect communities across the Mountain State with access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet services. This bill authorizes establishment of nonprofit broadband cooperative service models to spur development in unserved and underserved areas. More than 75 years ago, nonprofit, consumer-owned utilities took the lead in extending electric utility service to the farms, businesses and households of rural America. Today, that same cooperative model can be used as an important tool to empower rural communities in efforts to expand high-speed internet service. HB 3093 fosters the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council’s role in expediting the deployment of broadband services in communities across the Mountain State by estab- lishing the council as the state hub for data collection, mapping and assessment of high-speed internet services. It expands the council’s ability to serve as a policy sounding board or think tank entity for the development of policy recommendations to enhance and expand broadband in the state. This bill provides for the availability of loan insurance for commercial loans used to expand high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved areas. This allows for small- to medium-sized providers to have access to the capital they need to expand broadband infrastructure in the state. HB 3093 also reduces existing barriers to broadband deploy- ment by ensuring ready-pole access by all potential internet providers to the poles of incumbent local exchange carriers and authorizes the use of microtrenching techniques, as well as establishes a voluntary easement program to facilitate the deployment of high-speed internet. This is the first piece of comprehensive broadband expansion legislation passed in years. It passed with overwhelming bipar- tisan majorities in both the House and Senate, and Governor Jim Justice signed it into law to take effect July 1, 2017. Congratulations Tricia! Morgantown 304-554-3371 Charleston 304-343-4126 www.suttlecpas.com 26 WEST VIRGINIA EXECUTIVE Parkersburg 304-485-6584 Providing value-added services for more than 40 years!