Broadband expansion bill in committee today

Broadband expansion bill in committee today

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

In addition to his multifaceted gaming bill, Sen. Del Marsh on Tuesday afternoon also filed legislation to organize and fund broadband internet expansion across the state.

Senate Bill 215 would:

  • Create a nine-member Alabama Digital Expansion Authority to oversee the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband services throughout the state. A larger Connect Alabama Advisory Board will make recommendations to the authority;
  • Require the authority within a year of the law’s passage to develop and begin executing a Statewide Connectivity Plan to facilitate the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband networks, services, and technologies. A timeline for implementation must be included;
  • Create within the State Treasury the Connect Alabama Fund to collect appropriations by the Legislature, gifts, grants, and other donations from any source that are received by the authority for the Connect Alabama Program.
  • Create the Alabama University Research Alliance to assist the state’s universities, university health care systems and research institutions in the development of cooperative ventures of innovative technological significance to advance higher education, research, health care, and economic development within the state;
  • Creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation. It can issue bonds of up to $250 million to finance eligible projects.

At the moment, the state’s broadband expansion program is done only through ADECA grants. This would create a state entity to which the Legislature could appropriate direct funding, say from gambling revenue.

A fiscal note is not yet available on the bill.

Earlier this year, lawmakers were told it could cost $4 billion to $6 billion to expand broadband to underserved areas.

Like the gambling bill, SB215 is also in the Senate Tourism Committee at 10 a.m. It can be watched here. 

About 125 bills are in committees today, including:

  • In House Judiciary at 1:45 p.m. is House Bill 8, by Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, to allow local government to remove monuments, including Confederate statues, under the state’s Memorial Preservation Act of 2017;
  • Also in House Judiciary is House Bill 1, by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, to prohibit gender change therapy or surgery for minors;
  • House Bill 248 and Senate Bill 127, to allow for the broadcast of public K-12 sporting events. Both bills are in their respective chambers’ Education Policy committees;
  • House Bill 93, to modify teachers’ benefits in the Tier II system is also in the House Education Policy Committee at 1:30.

Meanwhile, the House meets at 1 p.m., the Senate meets at 4 p.m.