The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband recently released their 2017 annual report in time for the upcoming legislative session. The recommendations focus on two goals during the next four years; the timeframe was determined by the deadline to meet state goals for broadband speed.
The task force endorses continuation of Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, recommending an investment of $71.48 million during the next two biennia. The legislature has funded the program since 2014. The grants support unserved and underserved communities as they seek vendors who will build infrastructure. Tribal communities, businesses, nonprofits and political subdivisions are eligible to apply for grants. The awards are a maximum of $5 million per project and require a minimum dollar-for-dollar local match. This map shows the geographic distribution of grants during the life of the program.
The report stresses the importance of the Office of Broadband Development and recommends the office receive $500,000 per biennium until the state’s broadband goals are met. In addition to staffing the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, the office administers the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program and serves as a resource for all things broadband. They map access, offer policy advice, and support state and local planning efforts.
Both the office and grant program have helped to improve access across the state. It will be interesting to see how progress will be sustained after the state meets its broadband goals.