House ITEC Committee Passes Bill with Ten-Year Extension to the State Fund!

On a unanimous voice vote the House Innovation, Technology and Economic Development Committee passed the Governor’s broadband bill, HB 1498, after amending it to include a ten-year extension of the State Universal Communications Fund. The original bill included a five-year extension. Rep. Sharon Wylie (D – Vancouver) offered the amendment so that HB 1498 would match the bill she had sponsored to extend the fund by ten years. That bill, HB 1373, will not be voted out of committee.

Yesterday the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee passed an identical version of the House bill. That version still contains a five-year extension of the fund. The Governor’s bill still contains some troubling provisions including the creation of a state broadband grant and loan program which could be used to overbuild some of areas now served by WITA members at speeds of 10/1. We are working to amend that language to ensure that limited state dollars are targeted at areas which have no service. However, our highest priorities are to ensure the extension of the state fund and changes to the qualifications for drawing from that fund so that all our members can benefit from this program.

All of this occurred during the snowiest week in Olympia history. Many people reported 18 or more inches of snow at their homes, dozens of homes were without electricity and state government was shut down on Monday. Some legislative staff were unable to make it to work which resulted in the systems designed to track bills and amendments being out-of-date and incomplete. Dan Coyne and made it to the Capitol every day while Betty Buckley was unable to return from her ranch in eastern Washington due to heavy snow and pass closures. Shellie Burnham did a bit of work from home but also made it to her office, which is a block from the Capitol, every day.

We hope you’re all staying warm and safe!