Washington state has until Friday to pass a bill that would help residents in rural areas get Internet access.
House Bill 1938 would make it legal for public utility districts to sell Internet directly to individuals. In Seattle, utilities companies already have that authority but a municipal broadband system has not been set up. In many rural communities across the state, only water and electricity can be sold as utilities.
“While there are certainly areas within Seattle’s city limits without access to wired internet, there are much bigger dead zones in rural areas where the private sector has decided providing service simply isn’t profitable enough,” said Devin Glaser, Policy Director of municipal broadband activist group Upgrade Seattle, in an email. “Seattle already has the authority to create a public internet utility if it so decides. We think it’s only fair that people living outside the city are given the same option.”
Practically speaking, the bill would allow residents to petition their public utility districts to begin selling Internet. If passed, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to publicly-operated Internet service, as Seattle’s case shows.
The deadline to move the bill out of committee is tomorrow and Glaser is concerned it won’t make the cut. He and his team at Upgrade Seattle are asking people to contact Washington state’s house to show support for the bill.