By Simon Liu
Capitol West News
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah House passed a bill that will create a broadband outreach center, which will help encourage internet infrastructure through coordinating policies and broadband providers.
HB414 with a 65 to 7 vote on March 6 that would create a broadband outreach. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, and Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Where you locate on the information superhighway in today’s world is, in many cases, more important than where you locate along the I-15 corridor,” said Ivory. “That’s what this broadband network and mapping does, it allows people to understand where you’re locating.”
Ivory is referring to one of the primary functions of the center, which is to create and maintain a broadband information map that would allow businesses to see broadband coverage and infrastructure across the state.
The center would have many responsibilities related to broadband development and deployment, including researching broadband availability and usage across the state, facilitating infrastructure growth by connecting private and public entities and creating an advisory committee.
Soren Simonson, co-owner of business incubator company Impact Hub, spoke in support of the bill during the committee meeting on March 4 and shared his experience of trying to find a broadband provider for his business.
“When we got to the point of selecting internet service providers… we really didn’t know where to go to find what was available and we had to test the waters with a lot of different providers before we found something that sticks,” Simonson said. “The mapping that is being done currently…will be essential for businesses finding out where they can go to get the right kind of service.”
A House Public Utilities and Technology Committee substituted the original bill. The substitute addresses concerns that committee members had on the bill’s $450,000 fiscal note by adding a three-year sunset provision to the center.
The bill is a part of the Utah Broadband Project, a five-year statewide effort between the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Public Service Commission. The project operated through federal grants provided by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that expire in 2015.
“I believe the work of the Utah Broadband Outreach Center is essential to keeping Utah at the cutting edge of economic development…and connecting rural areas in our global marketplace,” Arent said.