In the face of the Covid-19 outbreak, state lawmakers in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico have passed legislation this year designed to hasten the construction of broadband infrastructure.
According to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures, legislators in 43 states have passed a variety of bills that include everything from providing more funding for such work, pinpointing specific rural and underserved areas most in need of broadband, and pushing for the acceleration of smart communities growth.
In surveying the flurry of new legislation, the State Net Capitol Journal notes: “There was a time in the not so distant past when high-speed Internet access was seen as something of a luxury—nice to have, but not critical to daily life.”
But, continues the publication, because the pandemic has forced millions of people to work at home, having high-speed broadband connection has become “absolutely crucial to doing our jobs.”
In Arizona, lawmakers have voted to appropriate $5 million from the state’s General Fund to go to the Arizona Commerce Authority, which, in turn, will provide broadband grants for infrastructure projects.
The Colorado State Legislature has successfully passed a bill giving the state’s Broadband Deployment Board the freedom to include written verification from local officials attesting to an area being underserved as part of a process to secure grant funding for broadband building projects.
Earlier this year lawmakers in New Mexico approved a gross receipts and compensating tax deductions for the building of broadband networks, while also agreeing to transfer funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to the New Mexico Department of Information Technology for the same purpose.
By so doing, that department is able to provide matching grant funding to school districts and tribal governments, among other entities, for the expansion of broadband infrastructure.
By Garry Boulard
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