The House of Delegates has agreed to amendments offered by the Senate to House Bill 3093, a bill that would expand broadband access to the entire state. The bill now heads to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.
The bill allows for communities to form “internet co-ops.” These cooperatives would work together with a service provider to become their community’s own provider. This provision allows for areas that may not have access to broadband, due to geological issues or other setbacks, to provide internet access to their communities.
House Bill 3093 creates a Broadband Enhancement Council to be established within the state Department of Commerce. That group would be tasked with providing administrative, personnel and technical support services to the communities that seek broadband expansion on their own.
The bill also establishes a Broadband Enhancement Fund that will hold any donations or appropriations the Council receives for their projects.
The Senate’s amendments include a title amendment and one that requires the Board of Treasury Investments to provide from the consolidated fund a $50 million non-recourse revolving loan to the Economic Development Authority to ensure payment or repayment of loans to broadband providers. The EDA could not ensure more than $10 million within a calendar year.