ISSAQUAH – Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) announced recently that much of her 2020 bill to help states build and improve broadband infrastructure, the State Broadband Office Innovation Pilot, will be implemented by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department recently announced that they would be making nearly $1 billion available to develop broadband infrastructure on Tribal lands and $288 million available to states and local governments to build broadband infrastructure. This funding was passed and signed into law in the end-of-year spending bill in December 2020.
“My bill, the State Broadband Office Innovation Pilot, was based on Washington State Broadband Office’s success leveraging partnerships to dramatically improve the Hoh Tribe’s internet access, speed and capacity,” said Rep. Schrier. “The pandemic has laid bare the vast disparities in internet access across the 8th district and the country. People are more dependent than ever on reliable internet access for school, work, and telemedicine. I am thrilled that the Commerce Department saw the potential of the great work being done in Washington State and states around the county. This funding will help many families, rural communities, and small businesses.”
“High-quality broadband is as essential as electricity to our everyday life,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “We know local leaders know their communities best, and this funding will be an important step forward for them to bring improve their community’s access to broadband. I am thankful for Congresswoman Schrier’s leadership for helping bring this funding to the Commerce Department.”
Similar to the State Broadband Office Innovation Pilot, this Commerce Department program will deploy broadband to areas with zero or limited broadband access and empower states to make investments where they know the need is greatest.
The Congresswoman continued: “While there is still work to be done to incentivize innovation and broaden partnerships, this is an exciting opportunity for states to bring access to those who need it the most.”
“Since launching our state broadband office in 2019, we’ve been working toward some of the most ambitious broadband goals in the country. But no one entity can do it on its own,” said Lisa Brown, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce which houses the state’s broadband office. “The only way to ensure every household and business has access to the internet is through extensive collaboration and investment, and we appreciate Rep. Schrier’s leadership to support broadband infrastructure across all our communities and on Tribal lands.”
“Washington state is pleased to see funds being allocated to the NTIA who is taking the time needed to determine an effective strategy to deployment of federal broadband infrastructure funds. We are encouraged by their attention to defining unserved areas through ensuring every citizen has a voice, the focus is on future proof infrastructure and there is a concerted effort to centralize the conversations with state broadband offices. While this is a step in the right direction, we trust this will be just a first step towards a more permanent national effort to ensure every citizen has access to robust connectivity,” added Russ Elliot, Director, Washington State Broadband Office.