Gov. Inslee signed a bill today to expand broadband access to underserved communities. Senate Bill 5511 was sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island).

“Expanding internet access throughout Washington state will increase equity in both education and business,” Wellman said. “Many of us simply can’t get through the day without accessing the internet. But we still have so many rural communities that don’t have access to this essential service.”

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

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

“I want every child in Washington to have access to the rich learning experiences that internet access provides,” Wellman said. “Far too many kids in rural communities lack that access, which is truly necessary to a modern education.”