JUNEAU – Alaskans across the state took a major step towards having affordable, high-speed internet in their homes. House Bill 363, introduced by Representative Bryce Edgmon, lays the groundwork to make Alaska eligible for the unprecedented level of federal funds available for broadband investment, while establishing a fund to create parity in internet costs between rural and urban Alaska.
Alaskans throughout the state suffer from low-quality, prohibitively expensive broadband service, if they’re lucky to have service at all. Following the passage of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA), over two billion dollars was made available to states for broadband infrastructure investment, but access to these federal funds is contingent states have a broadband office.
In anticipation, Governor Dunleavy established a Taskforce on Broadband to develop policy objectives and steps necessary to best position Alaska. Modeled directly from the taskforce’s recommendations and strict federal guidelines, HB 363 establishes the Office of Broadband, which will prioritize expanding high-quality, affordable broadband access to unserved and underserved communities, as well as anchor institutions. In response to the enormous premiums rural Alaskans pay for broadband, HB 363 creates the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund, designed to help temporarily bridge the cost between rural and urban broadband prices. Finally, the bill would form the Statewide Broadband Advisory Board, comprised of experts who would help the Office of Broadband engage stakeholders.
“It’s been said a rising tide lifts all boats. In the world of government and public policy, it’s a rarity – if ever – it occurs at all. With that said, it’s my belief the bill that passed the House today begins the journey to accomplish just that,” said Representative Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham). “Alaska is on the verge of receiving a tremendous amount of federal money that will help bring essential, high-quality, reliable, affordable internet to every corner of our state.”
“This bill was carefully crafted with diverse stakeholder input, from broadband providers, to tribal organizations, to municipalities, to the executive administration,” said Representative Grier Hopkins (D-Fairbanks). “This wide-ranging collaboration should emphasize how important it is that every Alaskan, no matter where you live, has access to high-speed, affordable internet service. It’s time we start to act as a state, and this is the good start my district needs.”
HB 363 now goes to the Senate for consideration.