House passes measure to fund ‘last mile’ of broadband

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The House of Representatives passed legislation to deliver broadband service to households and businesses in hard-to-reach areas.

The measure, HB 320, would allow the electric cooperatives regulated by the Public Service Commission to qualify for the financial assistance available through the Broadband Development Fund.

The measure also contains language that more than doubles the amount of money available to the Fund. The measure is sponsored by Representative Brandon Reed of Hodgenville.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on our problems with broadband in Kentucky,” Reed said. “This measure will clear the way for local providers to feasibly provide broadband service to underserved households and businesses through an affiliate.”

HB 320 builds on legislation passed during the 2020 legislative session. At that time, the General Assembly created the Broadband Deployment Fund to harness state resources and engage both public and private sector companies to reach the ‘last mile,’ the term used to describe hard to reach, areas that do not have the population necessary to attract some companies.

“By allocating $250 million towards this fund, we are not only declaring broadband access a top priority for this legislative session, but a top priority for the future prosperity of the Commonwealth,” Reed added. “I would like to thank Chairman Petrie for his support and contributions as we worked to formulate a bill that would cover the needs of all Kentuckians”

Representative Jason Petrie, Chair of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee explained, “This measure will put state money in unserved and underserved areas of Kentucky where federal money is not activated to provide service to the very end of the last mile so that the Commonwealth can actually be a ‘Common wealth’ of broadband,” Chairman Petrie said.

HB 320 will move to the Senate for consideration in the upcoming weeks of the 2021 general session.

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