Legislation that passed the House on Monday, May 2, lays the groundwork to make Alaska eligible
For federal funds for broadband investment, while establishing a fund to create parity in Internet costs between rural and urban Alaska.
House Bill 363 introduced by Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, establishes the Office of Broadband, which will prioritize expanding high-quality, affordable broadband access to unserved and underserved communities, as well as anchor institutions. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
“Alaska is on the verge of receiving a tremendous amount of federal money that will help bring essential, high-quality, reliable, affordable internet to every corner of our state,” Edgmon said.
Following the passage of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA), over $2 billion was made available to states for broadband infrastructure investment, but access to these federal funds is contingent states have a broadband office.
Anticipating that legislation, Gov. Mike Dunleavy established a Taskforce on Broadband to develop policy objectives and steps necessary to best position Alaska. Modeled directly from the taskforce’s recommendations and strict federal guidelines, HB 363 establishes the Office of Broadband, which will prioritize expanding high-quality, affordable broadband access to unserved and underserved communities, as well as anchor institutions. In response to the enormous premiums rural Alaskans pay for broadband, HB 363 creates the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund, designed to help temporarily bridge the cost between rural and urban broadband prices. Finally, the bill would form the Statewide Broadband Advisory Board, comprised of experts who would help the Office of Broadband engage stakeholders.