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Lamont Pitches Legislation Aimed at Expanding Broadband Access in Connecticut

  • Governor Ned Lamont says he will propose legislation aimed at expanding broadband access in Connecticut
  • Initiatives include streamlined permitting for equipment installation on utility poles, allowing a requirement for internet service providers to provide access where they have video licenses, and setting broadband access goals by September 2022
  • Lamont says a 2018 survey finds that 23 percent of Connecticut residents lack internet access

Governor Ned Lamont has announced a series of proposals aimed at expanding access to broadband internet in Connecticut, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of reliable internet and highlighted inequities in this access.

As part of a suite of proposals being sent to the Connecticut General Assembly in February, Lamont is asking legislators to set universal broadband access goals for the state by September 2022. He is also looking to allow the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to require internet service providers to provide internet access to all residents where they have video licenses.

Several of the proposed measures involve data collection to better gauge broadband access in Connecticut. One initiative would require internet service providers to report annual metrics on broadband availability, speeds, and outages. Lamont is also looking to have the Connecticut Office of State Broadband, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Transportation, and Office of Policy and Management coordinate on setting broadband goals and standards, undertaking a fiber-mapping program to identify broadband accessibility and gaps, and assisting businesses with broadband needs.

To speed up broadband infrastructure development, Lamont is asking for a more efficient permitting process for the installation of broadband internet equipment to utility poles. The proposed legislation would also require PURA to implement a one-touch make ready process for this installation as well as dig-once policies to make buried conduits available.

PURA would be given oversight of business and consumer complaints while also managing penalties for non-compliance. Lamont’s proposals also say that consumer use of the internet for legal purposes should not be interfered with, and that internet access should not be denied on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or financial standing issues such as low credit scores.

Lamont cited a 2018 survey that determined that 23 percent of Connecticut residents lack internet access. This share includes 35 percent of Hispanic households and 34 percent of Black households.

Connecticut lawmakers have already proposed several broadband expansion measures that line up with Lamont’s suggestions. These include requiring PURA to amend the process for attaching broadband internet infrastructure to utility poles, the creation of a broadband internet task force, an act that would allow telecommunications companies to expand their services within the state and eliminate data caps or fees, and a bill that would require internet service providers to expand internet service coverage areas at affordable rates.

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