FILE - Rural broadband

(The Center Square) – Legislation to make a broadband expansion program permanent in Virginia is heading to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk after the Senate agreed to amendments from the House of Delegates.

Senate Bill 1413, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, would make permanent a pilot program that allows Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to enter into deals with the State Corporation Commission to provide broadband to unserved areas of the commonwealth. It passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support and is expected to get Northam’s approval.

The legislation allows the utilities to recover costs and revenue generated from providing the services. It also consolidates the approval process into one hearing. According to the fiscal impact statement, there will be no cost to the state’s finances.

House-passed legislation that would expand the program to allow governmental utilities to enter into such deals also passed the Senate with amendments. However, the amendments are only grammatical and expected to be approved by the House. House Bill 1923 has unanimous support in both chambers of government.

A bill that would allow local school boards to appropriate funds toward broadband expansion also passed the Senate and will head to the governor. Senate bill 1225 would allow the funding for expansion if it is designed for education purposes and being provided to families that qualify for a child nutrition program or any other program the board uses to measure whether a student is at risk.

The bill would not impact state finances, but could impact local school board finances, according to the fiscal impact statement. It received broad bipartisan support in both chambers.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.