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A legislative panel on Thursday endorsed a bill that would end the prohibition on municipalities providing broadband service.

The Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee recommended passage of Senate Bill 150 by Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, which effectively amends the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 and allows government entities -- including cities, school districts and state agencies -- to provide broadband either on their own or in partnership with a private entity.

BroadbandNow.com ranks Arkansas as 45th in the nation with an average Internet connection speed of 28.3 megabits per second. New Jersey has the highest average speed, at 58.1 Mbps.

Davis told the committee that Arkansas is one of five states that have the most restrictive broadband laws.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

"The bill, as is, is not working for Arkansas," Davis said.

Davis added an emergency clause to SB150 because federal grants are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.

SB150 would allow, after public notice, municipalities and other entities to seek out grants or loans to construct, lease or otherwise acquire land or buildings to deploy broadband service in unserved areas.

-- Jeannie Roberts

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