Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today signed House Bill 363 establishing the Office of Broadband, creating the broadband parity adjustment fund, and establishing the Statewide Broadband Advisory Board. The bill, introduced by Representative Bryce Edgmon, carries out recommendations made by Governor Dunleavy’s Task Force on Broadband which was established under Administrative Order No. 322. The bill signing ceremony took place at the Alaska Broadband Summit + Workshop hosted by Alaska’s U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, the State of Alaska, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Alaska Municipal League (AML), and the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN)
“As someone who lived there for nearly 20 years, I well know the challenges of living in rural Alaska – high costs of living and everyday essentials, limited infrastructure, and oftentimes limited economic opportunities. I am a firm believer that digital equality creates economic and educational equality. Broadband deployment will be a game-changer in rural Alaska,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “Ensuring all Alaskans have access to equal economic and educational opportunities has been a priority for me as governor. With about one billion dollars headed for Alaska, and more dedicated to Tribal programs, we have a great opportunity to build an Alaska for the next 10, 20, and 50 years. The key factor will be all of us working together at the federal, state, local, and Tribal level. I am proud to sign House Bill 363 as another step in the process of equal broadband access for all Alaskans.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $116 million has been awarded to Alaska to improve high-speed internet access in rural communities. Alaska’s Congressional Delegation, including Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and late Congressman Young, worked to secure funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“I’d like to thank Alaska’s Congressional Delegation, Governor Dunleavy, and everyone who worked hard to get us to this point. I’m proud to have played a small role by introducing HB 363, which will help set the stage for Alaska to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation investment to deliver high-speed, affordable internet to every corner of the state,” said Representative Bryce Edgmon.
The legislation allows Alaska to capture federal funds by establishing the State Office of Broadband within the Department of Commerce, which will prioritize broadband service expansion in the following priority order: unserved areas, underserved areas, and anchor institutions. The bill creates the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund to be a repository of federal funds and may be utilized to offset costs of broadband for eligible Alaskans. Lastly, House Bill 363 created the Statewide Broadband Advisory Board to advise the Office of Broadband and facilitate stakeholder engagement.
“The pandemic has changed the way we work. More people are working remotely, but they depend on reliable, fast broadband service that isn’t available in many parts of Alaska. By deploying high quality service to all, we are going to unlock a large cohort of Alaskans who can help fill jobs. Not only can we help create jobs, we’ll help sustain our rural communities by not forcing Alaskans to choose between a job opportunity and their home or traditional ways of life,” continued Governor Dunleavy. “Today’s summit is one of the first steps toward turning this vision into a reality. Thank you to Senator Sullivan, the AML, the NTIA, and AFN for the role you played in putting this important summit together. And thank you to Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and the late great Congressman Don Young for their efforts in DC to bring home a tremendous opportunity for broadband deployment.”
On May 6, 2021, Governor Dunleavy signed A.O. 322 and later, A.O. 323, to establish the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband to address the growing need for reliable, high speed connectivity for all Alaskans. The Task Force submitted a final report, including recommendations to the governor, in fall of 2021. The key takeaways of the report were reflected in House Bill 363.
Alaskans interested in serving on the Statewide Broadband Advisory Board can apply online here or call the Boards and Commissions Office at (907) 269-7450