In an effort to advance high-speed internet connectivity across Rhode Island, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) has introduced legislation calling for the creation of state entities to take charge of spreading broadband access, according to a press release sent by the Rhode Island General Assembly on Tuesday.

Legislation she has introduced calls for the appointment of a statewide broadband coordinator as well as the creation of a Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council.

Rhode Island has a fiber-optic broadband network, Beacon 2.0, completed in August, 2013, that connects many state institutions including URI, RIC and the State Data Center, 39 school districts, 16 library facilities and the state’s three largest hospital consortia with a fiber optic backbone. But when the federal grant that helped fund its construction was exhausted, Rhode Island ceased having a state entity in charge of expanding access to fiber optic technology. Representative Ruggiero’s legislation seeks to ensure the state aggressively seeks opportunities and funding for expansion.

Rep. Ruggiero said in the press release: “High-speed internet is an absolute necessity to our economy here in Rhode Island. Our economy is rooted in information — technology, innovation, education — and we need to have the bandwidth to support it statewide. That’s how we will retain and attract business. Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that do Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that has not committed any resources to monitoring trends, accessing federal funds, broadband policy and improving connectivity.  My bill ensures that this important policy work is being done in Rhode Island.”

The House resolution (2020-H 7096) requests that the governor designate a statewide broadband coordinator dedicated to the oversight of broadband accessibility and internet connectivity for the 21st century and who would be responsible for accessing federal dollars for economic development, broadband policy and coordinating any future funding efforts.

It also calls for the Department of Administration and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to establish the 10-member Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council to assist the broadband coordinator. The council would be made up of volunteer stakeholders from Commerce, the League of Cities and Towns, Infrastructure Bank, Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network (OSHEAN), Connect Greater Newport and internet service providers. 

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