Muni broadband support flaring up again as digital divide widens

With the digital divide now spanning gigabits as opposed to megabits, the idea of community broadband--also known as municipal broadband, a way for municipalities to drive broadband into lightly serviced areas, is again flaring up across the country.

According to Government Technology, five states in particular--Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah and Tennessee--bear watching.

In Kansas, the birthplace of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Fiber and a battleground for ultra-high-speed broadband, a bill backed by the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association was introduced in the Senate to "prevent local governments" from creating their own broadband networks or partnering with companies to provide them. After opposition by 11 companies, including Google, and trade organizations saying that it was a "job killer," it was pulled from consideration "but rumors swirled in February that it would return in a different form later this year."

Minnesota went in the other direction, with Sen. Matt Schmit introducing a bill that would establish a grant and loan program that would take $100 million from the state's general fund and apply it to help broadband services expand into underserved areas. The bill was joined by one in the House but "both bills have stalled in committee … and it doesn't look like the issue will be taken up until 2015 at the earliest," the story notes.

New Hampshire legislation is moving forward to give local government expanded bonding authority to help areas that have limited or no high-speed Internet connectivity. That legislation is up for a hearing this week.

Utah saw some legislation that would potentially restrict where the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) could expand. While tabled in March, "broadband expansion advocates fear similar language could be reintroduced next year," the story continues.

Finally, Tennessee has a "package of bills" all intended to help local governments pursue broadband development and all which "appear dead or stuck in committee with no hearings scheduled," the story concludes.

For more:
- Government Technology has this story

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