A bill passed today by the Washington State Senate would expand broadband access to underserved communities. Senate Bill 5511 is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), and was requested by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I want every school child to be able to go on the internet and have the richness that exists in that world available to them,” Wellman said. “So many children in Washington’s rural communities are falling behind because they don’t have access to this critical modern infrastructure. This bill is truly about equity.”

The bill would establish the Governor’s Statewide Broadband Office. This office previously existed in Washington state but was eliminated in 2014. It would also require the Public Works Board to establish a competitive grant and loan program to provide broadband service to unserved or underserved areas.

Some public utility districts would temporarily be allowed to provide retail telecommunications services, and port districts would be able to provide telecommunications services within and outside of their district limits, as a result of the bill.

“Broadband is also a necessary tool for participation in the modern economy,” Wellman said. “Access to internet will do wonders for small businesses throughout Washington state.”

SB 5511 now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.