A bill that would halt the prohibition on municipalities providing broadband service zipped through the Senate on Tuesday.
The Senate voted 35-0 to send Senate Bill 150 by Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, to the House for further action.
The bill would amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 and allow government entities -- including cities, school districts and state agencies -- to provide broadband either on their own or in partnership with a private entity.
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.
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 senators that Arkansas is one of five states that has the most restrictive broadband laws, and her legislation could affect people across the state, no matter where they live. Local communities would decide whether to seek federal funds in partnership or on their own, she said.
-- Michael R. Wickline