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Idaho State News

Gov. Little signs “Idaho First” broadband investments into law

Boise, Idaho – (Release from Idaho Governor’s Office) Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1129 into law Monday, March 20, adding another $125 million to improve broadband infrastructure throughout the state as part of his “Idaho First” plan. Another $100 million is nearing legislative approval as part of the Idaho Department of Commerce appropriation budget, for a total of $225 million in new funding for broadband expansion in Idaho.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a strong economy. Improved broadband infrastructure means both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life. I appreciate my legislative partners for prioritizing these new ‘Idaho First’ investments in broadband expansion. Together, we are ensuring a kid in Pierce can learn online with a kid from Pocatello and a senior citizen in Challis can connect to her doctor in Chubbuck. This is about all about connecting Idaho and improving lives,” Governor Little said.

The Idaho Broadband Advisory Board will oversee the distribution of funds to ensure all corners of the state can have fast, reliable broadband.

Improved broadband helps student learning, telehealth, work-from-home opportunities in more parts of the state, and enhanced government services. Long-term, Idaho will see better opportunities for economic development in underserved parts of Idaho.

Since 2019, Governor Little and the Legislature have taken many steps to improve broadband. The Broadband Task Force was assembled, and the Idaho Broadband Office was created at the Idaho Department of Commerce to put structure around Idaho’s broadband priorities and position us to further seize opportunities to expand broadband.

Through this work, Idaho established a plan early on to improve broadband access, speed, and infrastructure across Idaho.

In March of 2020, the pandemic further reinforced the need to better connect Idaho with improved broadband services. Idaho put $50 million in CARES Act dollars to advance dozens of projects throughout the state in 2020. Then in 2021, Idaho set aside $35 million of General Fund money to expand broadband.

Through the investments, the state has been able to connect tens of thousands of underserved households in Idaho, the majority of which are in rural communities of less than 3,000 residents. Dozens and dozens of projects were launched with the investments we made.

The new funds signed into law today help the state tackle the more than $600 million worth of shovel ready projects waiting for funding in Idaho.