Background: Twenty-one Arkansas Women Republican State Senators and Representatives wanted it to be clear that Arkansas’ lack of rural broadband was in a state of emergency. As part of their DREAM “B.I.G.” agenda, the Arkansas Republican Women Legislative Caucus sponsored rural broadband legislation on January 23rd, that sought to unleash their rural municipalities to apply for over $1 billion in USDA grants.
As originally written, SB150 would have removed most restrictions on municipalities that do not operate their own electric utilities by putting them on par with municipalities that do operate electric utilities. (Municipal electric utilities in Arkansas already have the right to provide communications services other than traditional local exchange services.) After SB150 moved from the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee to the Senate floor, the broadband municipal broadband restrictions were re-imposed on those communities that do not operate electric utilities , and a new provision was added giving them the right, alone or with a private partner, to apply for loans or grants to serve unserved areas and to provide services in such unserved areas pursuant to grants or loans received.
On February 15, CLIC wrote a letter of commendation and support to the Arkansas Republican Women Legislative Caucus, complimenting their bold and important step to ensure universal broadband availability in Arkansas.
February 15, 2019
Arkansas Republican Women Legislative Caucus
Senator Breanne Davis, Senator Cecile Bledsoe, Senator Jane English, Senator Missy Irvin; Rep. Deanne Vaught, Rep. Sonia Barker, Rep. Mary. Bentley, Rep. Karilyn Brown, Rep. Sarah Capp, Rep. Frances Cavenaugh, Rep. Carol Dalby, Rep. Charlene Fite, Rep. Robin Lunstrum, Rep. Rebecca Petty, Rep. Nelda Speakes, Rep. Michelle Gray, Rep. Cindy Crawford, Rep. Jana Della Rosa, Rep. Julie Mayberry, Rep. Gayla Hendren McKenzie, and Rep. Laurie Rushing
Subject: CLIC support for Rural Broadband Legislation SB150
Dear Members of the Arkansas Republican Women Legislative Caucus:
We write to thank you and your colleagues for your work to promote local internet and broadband choice and opportunity.
We write in our capacities as women leaders of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC), a nonpartisan entity that represents a wide range of public and private interests who support the authority of local communities to make broadband internet choices that are essential for economic competitiveness, democratic discourse, and quality of life in the 21st Century.
CLIC believes that our national interest requires that local communities have the authority to engage in broadband projects through whatever means best suits the local community, as is determined by their elected officials. Such means can include a wide range of options, including partnerships with private entities, public networking, and facilitation of private ISP investment.
We were delighted to see that your Caucus’s “Dream B.I.G.” legislative agenda included SB150: An Act to Amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013; to Provide Additional Access to FCC-Defined Broadband Service; to Declare an Emergency. The original version of SB150 would have removed the state’s legal barriers that currently prevent municipalities from doing their part to help deploy broadband in their communities. When that version of SB150 passed the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, it sparked hope for a better future for the businesses, institutions, and residents of Arkansas. Unfortunately, the far more restrictive version that passed the full Senate represents a step backward, as it ties the hands of local communities to determine their broadband destinies.
We stand with you in this bold important step to ensure that no child or family is denied access to educational, healthcare, public safety and economic opportunities unleashed by access to broadband because of where they live. We hope to have the opportunity to support your efforts.
Please let us know who we should contact in the near future to work together.