THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
relating to broadband.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that the economic and business incentives to deploy broadband infrastructure may be insufficient to ensure full access to broadband services in low-density, rural locations and other unserved and underserved areas of the State where the unit costs of providing service may not provide an adequate return on investment.
Economically feasible deployment of infrastructure for high-speed broadband across the State, especially to low population density areas, presents a more formidable challenge than faced by most states, which are part of one continental land mass. The unique geography of our State prevents the use of less costly options for connectivity.
Access to broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of Hawaii would enhance economic development, education, health care, and emergency services in those areas. The availability of grants for deployment to unserved and underserved areas would further those objectives by encouraging new investment in broadband infrastructure.
The legislature strongly supports efforts to improve access to broadband services for residents across the State and efforts that benefit consumers and businesses in accessing services. Although broadband coverage in the State is widespread, additional investment can be made to keep up with needs in rural communities to bridge the digital divide.
The purpose of this Act is to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of Hawaii by identifying and addressing remaining obstacles to full deployment of broadband infrastructure to all areas of Hawaii. Specifically, this Act establishes the broadband infrastructure grant program to award grants to applicants to extend deployment of facilities used to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of the State.
SECTION 2. The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
broadband infrastructure grant program
§ -1 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
"Broadband infrastructure" shall have the same meaning as in section 440J-1.
"Broadband service" shall have the same meaning as "broadband access or broadband service" in section 440J-1.
"Department" means the department of business, economic development, and tourism.
"Program" means the broadband infrastructure grant program established by this chapter.
"Project" means a proposed deployment of broadband infrastructure set forth in an application for grant funding authorized under this chapter.
"Project area" means a census block or aggregation of adjacent census blocks proposed to be covered in an application for grant funding authorized under this chapter.
"Underserved area" means a project area with access to broadband service that the minimum upload and download speeds are less than double the minimum upload and download speeds required for broadband service.
"Unserved area" means a project area without access to broadband service.
§ -2 Establishment of the broadband infrastructure grant program. There is established the broadband infrastructure grant program to be placed in the department of business, economic development, and tourism for administrative purposes. The department shall receive and review grant applications and may award grants for eligible projects pursuant to the program.
§ -3 Eligible projects. The department may award grants for eligible projects; provided that on the date the application is submitted, the area to be served by the project shall be an unserved area or underserved area.
§ -4 Eligible applicants. To be eligible for a grant, an applicant shall:
(1) Commit to paying a minimum of fifty per cent of the project costs out of the applicant's own funds;
(2) Be any non-governmental entity with demonstrated experience in providing broadband service, broadband infrastructure, or other communication services to residential customers within the State; and
(3) Commit to complying with net neutrality principles as defined by Executive Order No. 18-02.
§ -5 Applications. (a) The department shall establish an annual time period to commence an open process for submission of applications for funding under the program. The time period for submission shall be not less than sixty and not more than ninety days.
(b) The form of the application shall be as prescribed by the department and require submission of the following:
(1) Evidence demonstrating the applicant's experience and ability in building, operating, and managing broadband infrastructure serving residential customers;
(2) A description of the project area, including a list of census blocks covered by the proposed deployment. If a census block included in a project is partially served by a provider of broadband service, the application shall include:
(A) A description of the portions of the census block that are served;
(B) A description of the portions of the census block that constitute an unserved area or underserved area; and
(C) A certification that no portion of the grant provided by the program for the project shall be used to extend or deploy facilities to any already-served households;
(3) A description of the broadband infrastructure that is proposed to be deployed, including facilities, equipment, and network capabilities, including minimum speed thresholds;
(4) Evidence, including certification from the applicant, demonstrating the unserved or underserved nature of the project area;
(5) The number of households in each:
(A) Unserved area that would gain access to broadband service; and
(B) Underserved area that would gain access to broadband service with minimum upload and download speeds that are equal to or more than double the minimum upload and download speeds required for broadband service,
as a result of the grant;
(6) The total cost of the project and the timeframe in which it will be completed;
(7) The amount of matching funds the applicant proposes to contribute;
(8) Evidence demonstrating the economic and commercial feasibility of the project;
(9) A list of all government authorizations, permits, and other approvals required for the project and a timetable for the applicant's acquisition of the approvals; and
(10) Any other information required by the department.
§ -6 Review of applications; approval. (a) Within five business days following the last day of the time period for submission of applications, the department shall make the applications available for review in a publicly available electronic file.
(b) A broadband service provider that provides service within or directly adjacent to a proposed project area may submit, within forty-five days of the department making the applications available for review in a publicly available electronic file, a written challenge to any application. The challenge may:
(1) Dispute an applicant's certification that a proposed project area is an unserved area or underserved area; or
(2) Attest to the challenging provider's existing or planned provision of broadband service within the applicant's proposed project area.
(c) In reviewing applications, and any accompanying challenge, the department shall review the proposed project areas to ensure that all awarded funds are used to deploy broadband infrastructure to unserved areas or underserved areas.
(d) The department shall award grants for projects set forth in applications based upon a scoring system that shall be released to the public at least thirty days prior to the first day of the time period for submission of applications. The scoring system shall give the highest weight or priority to the specific criteria enumerated as follows:
(1) Larger unserved area or underserved area proposed to be served;
(2) Projects that do not duplicate any existing broadband infrastructure in the project area;
(3) Applicants with demonstrated experience and technical ability to successfully deploy, operate, and maintain broadband infrastructure;
(4) Projects in unserved areas, rather than those in underserved areas;
(5) Projects in which fewer government funds and less support are necessary to deploy broadband infrastructure in an economically feasible manner;
(6) Projects with more matching funds proposed to be committed by the applicant;
(7) High service speed thresholds proposed in the application and high scalability of the broadband infrastructure proposed to be deployed to speeds more than the minimum upload and download speeds required for broadband service;
(8) Applicants with a high ability to leverage nearby or adjacent broadband infrastructure to facilitate the proposed deployment and provision of service to households; and
(9) Other factors the department determines to be reasonable and appropriate, consistent with the purpose of facilitating the economic deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas.
(e) Each grant award shall include a reasonable timeframe to complete the project.
§ -7 Departmental authority. The department may:
(1) Require disgorgement of grant funds in response to an applicant's pattern of failure, following notice and an opportunity to cure and build-out a project area in accordance with the timeframes and milestones set forth in its application;
(2) Consider an applicant's financial ability to complete the project proposed in an application and make reasonable requests for information necessary for the oversight and administration of any project funded pursuant to this chapter; and
(3) Impose any new or additional regulatory requirements on grant recipients, through grant agreements or any other mechanism, other than the program implementation rules expressly authorized in this chapter.
§ -8 Rules. The department shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 to effectuate the purposes of this chapter."
SECTION 3. Within one hundred eighty days of the approval of this Act, the department of business, economic development, and tourism shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to implement the broadband infrastructure grant program, including rules regarding the submission, review, and approval of applications; administration of projects funded; and grant agreements memorializing the award of funds.
SECTION 4. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $ or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2021-2022 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2022-2023 for the establishment and administration of the broadband infrastructure grant program established by this Act.
The sums appropriated shall be expended by the department of business, economic development, and tourism for the purposes of this Act.
SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2021.
Broadband Infrastructure; Grant Program; Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism; Appropriation
Establishes a broadband infrastructure grant program to be administered by the department of business, economic development, and tourism. Makes an appropriation.
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