New law will spur broadband deployment in rural areas, Sheldon says

OLYMPIA – A bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee will spur deployment of high-speed Internet service in rural areas, said Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Senate Bill 5511 launches a $21 million program to promote rural broadband development, and creates a Statewide Broadband Office under the governor’s office to oversee state efforts. Sheldon was prime sponsor of a bill last session that put the issue on the Legislature’s radar screen.

“I’m glad to finally see this bill make it through,” Sheldon said. “The program is a bit smaller than the one we proposed last year, but it’s a good start, and we can build upon it in the future.

“High-speed service is vital to our state’s competitiveness, but as new 5G networks are rolled out, there is a danger rural areas will be ignored as providers focus on more lucrative markets. This is a concern for everyone who lives outside an urban center. The Internet is a foundation for just about everything we do these days, from applying to college to running a small business, or just keeping in touch with the world. But in districts like mine, many people are still on dial-up connections because that is the fastest service available.

“In many ways the deployment of broadband technologies in rural areas is as important as the deployment of electricity was in the thirties. There is much state government can do to make sure these new networks reach everyone in the state, regardless of zip code.”