House OKs broadband grant legislation

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation approved Wednesday by the House would put a framework in place to help expand broadband technology to rural areas in Kentucky, boosting everything from job creation to education.

But the proposal still must clear the state Senate and then depend on funding in the future.

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State Rep. Phillip Pratt, a Georgetown Republican who cosponsored HB 362, said the broadband deployment program would allow government agencies or private entities to apply for state grants for broadband infrastructure projects in defined unserved and underserved areas of the state.

The Kentucky Infrastructure Authority would administer the program, which would require grant applicants to pay 50 percent of the project cost.

The bill passed the House 82-11.

HB 362 does not include an appropriation for the grant program, said Pratt. It would instead put a structure in place for the program to be funded in the future.

At least 31 states including Indiana and Tennessee now offer some kind of incentives for broadband deployment based on recent news reports, Pratt added.

One lawmaker opposing the bill was Rep. Maria Sorolis, D-Louisville. While Sorolis said she supports the goal of the bill, she was doubtful the goal can be reached under the legislation.

“I’d just like to see (the bill) put together in a fashion … that the goals could be accomplished, it wouldn’t be cherry-picked by big corporations, and that perhaps we could use this as an opportunity to fund and fuel some home-grown business in those areas of our state that are deserving and in need,” Sorolis said.

Pratt said HB 362 will help meet that need by putting the grant framework in place.

“Broadband providers are aggressively pursuing federal and state grants and loans throughout the country as they seek public-private partnerships to advance broadband deployment,” he said.