New Hampshire has made strides in bringing better connectivity to unserved areas with projects like New Hampshire Fast Roads, but for years one factor has held them back: state law limitations on municipal bonding for Internet infrastructure. Once again, a proposal to change the law is in the state legislature.
SB 170 - It's Simple
SB 170 proposes to eliminate the one provision in New Hampshire law that has prevented municipalities from bonding for Internet infrastructure - the requirement that the infrastructure can only serve properties where there is no existing service. By blocking access to funding, the requirement has prevented projects that might bring service to whole communities when small pockets of service already exist in those communities.
The House companion bill, HB 191, passed the Science, Technology and Energy Committee but died when brought before the full House for a vote. The bipartisan vote against the bill was 193 - 168, emphasizing that the issue of connectivity is not related to political party.
SB 170 was heard in the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee in early February and, even though a number of individuals and organizations from communities in effected towns spoke on its behalf, a motion was presented to kill the bill. We’re happy to report, however, that the motion failed and the bill was rereferred to the same committee. It’s been sitting there ever since. In other words, it’s still alive, but it may not be picked up again unless committee leadership feel motivated to do so.
Tell Them, "It's About MY Hometown"
This proposal has seen the inside of New Hampshire’s General Court several times since we first reported on state bonding bills back in 2011. The measure appears to have gained momentum and with more constituent support, this particular piece of progress could become law. It may or may not be too late for SB 170 this session, but remember that legislation often takes several years to happen.
This proposal is about better connectivity, but at its heart it is about local control and access to choice. Why should the state dictate in which geographical areas a community can and cannot develop a project, regardless of the type of infrastructure, in order to preserve a national company's monopoly? After all, no one knows what your community needs better than you do.
We encourage you to call the members of the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee ASAP and tell them that you want this bill to get another chance. It’s also worth your time to call or email your legislators and tell them that, if this bill or others like it appear before them, you want them to support those bills now and in the future.