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Alaska Bill Establishes New State Broadband Office

The newly formed office is one of three initiatives announced by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy that are aimed at expanding high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the state.

Alaska has enacted new legislation to establish a state broadband office, a broadband parity adjustment fund and a statewide broadband advisory board.

The law that establishes all three was recently signed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy after it was initially proposed last year by state Rep. Bryce Edgmon in response to recommendations listed in a Nov. 2021 report from the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. In the report, the task force detailed the state’s need for a centralized approach to expanding broadband. At the same time, a historic amount of funding for broadband is currently making its way down to states from the federal government.

The bill takes this into consideration, stating: “The legislation will allow 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 order: unserved areas, underserved areas and anchor institutions.”

The legislation also states that the Broadband Parity Adjustment Fund will serve as a repository for federal funds to offset broadband costs for eligible Alaskans.

An example of these funds includes a recent award made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of $116 million to improve high-speed Internet access in rural communities across Alaska.

Meanwhile, the state’s Broadband Advisory Board will advise the broadband office and facilitate stakeholder engagement.

“Broadband deployment will be a game-changer in rural Alaska,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “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.”

As a result, he added that he is proud to sign this legislation as another step in the process of providing equal broadband access to all Alaskans. Rural areas across the country have long faced infrastructure barriers to building out efficient broadband.