Rep. Mary Dye continues to champion broadband for rural Washington

Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, has introduced new legislation addressing the increasing need for essential broadband services in counties across the state. Rural Washington remains outside the digital economy.

Today's world moves at the speed of light; but while Seattle has access to gigabit speeds and the latest in fast moving technology, rural Washington is left in the dark.  Over 200,000 Washingtonians still don't have reliable, high-speed access to one of our country's most essential services.

“Building fiber-optic infrastructure is expensive and many rural communities are left behind,” said Dye. “Policymakers continue the debate about how to close this digital divide. I believe I have found the right solution.”

House Bill 2664 would extend existing telecommunications authority to all ports in Washington state to facilitate public-private partnerships. The policy envisions a collaboration between private telecom firms, or internet service providers, and the state's public ports.

Dye said, “Rural public ports have been constructing fiber networks since 2000, under legislation allowing them to do so. However, current law prevents non-rural ports from building networks in under-served rural neighborhoods near bigger cities. Getting rid of the restrictive definition of rural in existing statute will allow public ports to reach those communities that have no hope of access to the fiber network today.

“It's a simple bill. But, best of all, it costs the state nothing. Ports have the ability to invest for the long term. They're all about building infrastructure that creates growth in small communities.

“My bill would allow all public ports to install broadband fiber and lease access to telecom companies. Because the initial cost to construct infrastructure often exceeds the anticipated revenues of serving so few customers, partnering with ports and aggregating those remote markets creates a viable financial incentive for telecommunications companies to serve customers in rural areas.”

Dye's bill would use a unique local enterprise government to form partnerships with private telecommunications companies to build the last mile network to residents in areas without broadband access.

“We must use our own resources available through our public ports so Washington state can deploy a robust effort to reach communities left behind,” continued Dye. “My proposed legislation is one approach to assist in reaching this humanitarian goal.”

House Bill 2664 has been referred to the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, where it awaits a hearing.

The 2018 legislative session began Jan. 8 and is scheduled to run 60 consecutive days.


Washington State House Republican Communications