Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that would transfer the responsibility of broadband policy implementation from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Economic Opportunity and encourage the use of broadband internet service in rural underserved areas in Florida.
“A great concern with lack of broadband in certain rural areas of our state is the impact on first responders and their ability to quickly and accurately reach Floridians in need. Our goal is for every Floridian to have access to fixed broadband, which is critical to business, education, and most importantly, public safety,” said Senate President Bill Galvano.
The measure, HB 969, also called for the creation of the Florida Office of Broadband within the DEO’s Division of Community Development. The duties of the office will include the development, marketing and promotion of broadband
Additionally, the measure authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation to spend up to $5 million from the State Transportation Trust Fund allocation to the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program to further the development of broadband infrastructure within a multi-use corridor.
“The impacts of the coronavirus further highlight the need for the wide-ranging infrastructure improvements, including fixed broadband, that are contemplated in the MCORES Program. Those counties that are the most underserved by fixed broadband have likely already felt the effects of a tremendous disadvantage for K-12 and higher education students, employees transitioning to a remote work environment, and businesses trying to adapt their work models to engage in e-commerce opportunities,” Galvano added. “The MCORES corridor study areas include many counties with relatively low populations and per capita income that are underserved by fixed broadband access. As broadband expands into these rural legacy communities, we can not only improve the safety of residents and visitors, but also remove existing barriers to commerce and education opportunities.”
The measure was sponsored by Republican Rep. Brad Drake of Holmes County and Democratic Rep. Lorrane Ausley of Tallahassee.