What's New this Month
Late on Wednesday of this week the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that removed the sunset from the State Universal Communications Fund. The bill, SHB 2423, was sponsored by Rep. Richard DeBolt (R - Chehalis) and now goes to the Senate where we are not expecting a warm welcome from the chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. Fortunately the fact that the bill received such strong support in the House was not lost on staff at the Governor’s office who said that they will continue to support the bill.
Earlier the same day the Senate passed SSB 5935 which gives us marginally good news wrapped in some very bad news. It provides for a five year extension of the State Fund but allows other providers to compete for those state funds without being subject to the same regulations. It also gives the Ports statewide broadband wholesale authority and allows them to create exclusive contracts with retail providers. To support that effort SSB 5935 also creates a broadband grant fund for qualified local governments, which would include Ports and PUDs, and tribes. That bill now goes to the House Technology and Economic Development committee where we hope to get it fixed.
The contrast between the House and the Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats, comes down to this: technology leaders in the House realize that the State needs a tool box full of different options for maintaining and fixing rural broadband while the Senate is looking for a one-size-fits-all approach to broadband deployment.
Session ends on March 8th so we have our work cut out for us between now and then.
WITSA Scholarship Open
WITSA Scholarship Application is OPEN - Due date April 2nd! Scholarship awards are available to dependent children of full-time employees of Washington Independent Telecommunications Association Members and Associate Member companies. Scholarship awards are based on academic achievement and extra-curricular activities. WITSA Scholarship awards are not one-time awards. Students who have received a scholarship in the past are encouraged to reapply in subsequent years to be considered. Please submit the application by April 2nd, 2018.
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