A local state representative wants to give municipalities in rural areas the option to provide their residents with broadband services.

State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, Greene County, introduced a measure that would amend the state’s Municipal Authorities Act to allow local governments the ability to deploy a publicly owned broadband internet network.

She said getting high-speed internet to rural areas has been an issue she’s been working on for several years, as 53% of Americans in rural areas do not have access to high-speed services.

During her involvement in the issue, Snyder said she’s found that getting to that goal is not easy, and she’s learned what has and what has not worked in other areas across the country.

“One thing that has been successful in rural areas is to have a rural co-op,” Snyder said, adding that, much like joint municipal authorities for sewage and water, municipalities in other states have been very successful in providing internet services to their people through such co-ops. “It’s not something they have to do, but it puts another piece of the puzzle on the table to get high-speed internet to rural areas.”

By amending the Municipal Authorities Act, Snyder said municipalities that want to can be a nonprofit internet service provider just as some opt to operate water or sewage authorities. She said municipalities can raise the money to implement an internet authority through bonds or through federal grants.

No matter what path is taken, Snyder said rural municipalities having high-speed internet access will give residents and businesses in the area the opportunity to compete on a global level as well as opening those municipalities to potential economic growth.

“I’m hoping municipalities will embrace this as an option for them,” Snyder said.

Her bill, known as HB2055, is currently under consideration in the House Local Government Committee.

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