Bill Text: HI SB850 | 2021 | Regular Session | Amended


Bill Title: Relating To Broadband Infrastructure For Rural Communities.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 13-0)

Status: (Engrossed - Dead) 2021-03-17 - The committee(s) on HET recommend(s) that the measure be deferred. [SB850 Detail]

Download: Hawaii-2021-SB850-Amended.html

THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

850

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021

S.D. 2

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


     SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has heightened the demand for reliable, and affordable internet connectivity as work, education, and access to services have shifted online.  Improving access to broadband in unserved and underserved areas of Hawaii fulfills a fundamental governmental purpose and function, and provides public benefits to the residents of Hawaii by increasing access to health care, advancing education and essential services, providing economic development and diversification, increasing civic participation, and enhancing public health and safety.

     The Federal Communications Commission's 2018 broadband deployment report showed improvements in nearly every area of advanced telecommunications services, but there are still significant gaps specific to rural and other low-density areas.  Many rural, agricultural, and lower-income communities throughout the State lack access to reliable and affordable broadband, which creates barriers to healthcare access, educational equity, sustainable agriculture, emergency response capabilities, and economic development, leaving residents technologically and economically isolated and competitively disadvantaged.

     While providing high-speed broadband networks to areas with challenging terrain and low populations is difficult, increased broadband access can enable telemedicine, distance learning, and online access to the workplace and marketplace for residents of struggling families and unemployed workers.  Broadband access can protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, while addressing socioeconomic disparities for the most vulnerable Hawaii residents, especially in historically marginalized, desolate, and isolated communities.

     The legislature further finds that Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020 provided more than $2,000,000,000,000 in economic stimulus to address the pandemic.  Among its provisions, the Act created the Coronavirus Fund, designating $150,000,000,000 for payments "to state, local, and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak."

     In addition, the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2020 provided:

     (1)  $6,250,000,000 for State Broadband Deployment and Broadband Connectivity grants to bridge the digital divide and ensure affordable access to broadband during the COVID-19 pandemic;

     (2)  $3,000,000,000 for an Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to provide e-rate support to educational and distance learning providers to provide hotspots, devices, and other connected devices, and advance digital equity/inclusion (with funds prioritized to rural areas with the highest need);

     (3)  $475,000,000 for the Federal Communications Commissionís telehealth program to support efforts of healthcare providers to address coronavirus, including a twenty per cent set aside for small, rural health providers;

     (4)  $300,000,000 for rural broadband deployment;

     (5)  $100,000,000 to Department of Veterans Affairs for Telehealth and Connected Car Program to purchase, maintain, and refresh devices, and services to veterans for provision of access to telehealth services; and

     (6)  $98,000,000 to improve broadband mapping.

     The legislature finds that funding broadband is a necessary expenditure due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.  With the arrival of the funding from the CARES Act and the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020, the legislature believes that the department of transportation and department of business, economic development, and tourism should direct any future federal funding into grant programs that would fund projects to expand broadband infrastructure and keep households connected, especially to those rural, unserved and underserved communities that have been historically overlooked in the development of broadband infrastructure.

     The purpose of this Act is to establish a task force to expand digital inclusion and adoption to achieve digital equity to ensure that all individuals and communities, especially the most disadvantaged and geographically isolated, have access to information and modern communication technologies.

     SECTION 2.  (a)  The department of transportation and department of business, economic development, and tourism shall jointly convene a broadband access equity task force to expand digital inclusion and adoption to achieve digital equity for residents of rural communities.  The department shall apply for any future federal funding that becomes available to fund grants for broadband infrastructure for unserved and underserved, desolate, and historically marginalized areas.

     Specifically, the task force shall consider:

     (1)  Applying for all available sources of federal funding for broadband infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas;

     (2)  Ensuring that the CARES Act and Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 funding previously obtained for broadband services are primarily used to fund grants for critical broadband infrastructure to meet current needs of those in unserved and underserved, rural, historically marginalized communities; and

     (3)  Securing broadband access sites throughout unserved and underserved areas.

     (b)  The director of transportation and the director of business, economic development, and tourism, or the directors' designees, shall serve as co-chairpersons of the broadband access equity task force and shall invite the following individuals or their designee to serve as members of the task force:

     (1)  The director of the department commerce and consumer affairs;

     (2)  The mayors of the four counties of Hawaii;

     (3)  Four representatives of federal, state, and county government entities having a role in infrastructure deployment; management of public rights-of-way, regulation, and franchising; information technology; and economic development;

     (4)  Four representatives of Hawaii's private sector technology, telecommunications, and investment industries; and

     (5)  Any other individuals as determined by the director of business, economic development, and tourism or the department of transportation.

     (c)  The members of the broadband access equity task force shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for expenses, including travel expenses, necessary for the performance of their duties.

     (d)  The department of transportation and department of business economic, development, and tourism shall submit a joint report of the broadband access equity task force's findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2022.  The report shall include an accounting of:

     (1)  All funds that the task force has applied for from federal government programs and funds previously obtained under the CARES Act and Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020; and

     (2)  All grant amounts dispersed by the State for the purpose of immediately expanding broadband access in unserved and underserved areas.

     (e)  The broadband access equity task force shall cease to exist on June 30, 2023.

     SECTION 3.  This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2050.



 

Report Title:

DBEDT; DOT; CARES Act; Broadband; Unserved and Underserved Areas; Digital Equity

 

Description:

Creates a task force jointly convened by the department of transportation and department of business, economic development, and tourism to provide equitable broadband access for historically marginalized, unserved, and underserved rural communities.  Requires the task force to apply for federal moneys for broadband access.  Requires the departments' report to include the findings of the task force and an accounting of amounts received from the CARES Act and Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 and grants disbursed by the State for broadband infrastructure for rural communities.  Effective 7/1/2050.  (SD2)

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.

 

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