Broadband Author Hopes High-Speed Efforts Won’t Slow

Although they may not see eye-to-eye how to do it, lawmakers from both parties in Olympia and the governor agree high-speed broadband should be expanded across the state. Washington House Republicans’ John Sattgast reports from the state Capitol.

SATTGAST:  Representative Mary Dye is a Republican from the small Eastern Washington community of Pomeroy, population fourteen-hundred. The dryland wheat farmer knows what it is like to have a sluggish connection, and how it has held back economic development in unserved and underserved areas. Two years ago, she went to work to change that.

Last year, Dye finally had a measure that gained the Legislature’s support and received the governor’s signature. Her bill gave port districts the ability to build open access networks that are affordable for internet service providers to operate in underserved areas across the state.

DYE: “I’m very excited about the fact that we’re building publicly-funded infrastructure, that is the durable infrastructure, which is the fiber, and giving an opportunity for entrepreneurs, and young start-up telecoms, and ISPs, as well as established companies to come in and serve in these communities.”

SATTGAST: Not one to let a popular issue pass by, Governor Jay Inslee became involved last summer, touring rural areas, including Pomeroy. On Wednesday, he announced a proposal that would create a Statewide Broadband Office.

Dye says any collaborative effort between government and private entities must ensure that no area of the state goes without high-speed access.

DYE: “But I encourage the governor and others to think that when you are investing public funds, you want to invest for the long term. So we want to make sure they help us build fiber to the home, fiber to the business communities, so that we can be competitive in every area of our state in the global marketplace.”

SATTGAST: Dye is working on legislation that would provide more permanent funding to the Community Economic Revitalization Board, which is already providing loans and grants for infrastructure. She’s excited the governor is on board, but hopes government itself won’t slow what is already a high-speed effort to build broadband across the state.

John Sattgast, Olympia