House Bill 320 approved: opens broadband to co-ops

In a significant win for the electric cooperative program in Kentucky, the General Assembly approved legislation Tuesday that allows regulated electric cooperatives to add broadband service, and earmarks $250 million in federal funding to encourage broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. The bill now goes to Governor Andy Beshear for his signature or veto.
Supported by a grassroots campaign of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, House Bill 320 does not include any changes to existing pole attachment regulations that would have led to electric rate increases. Instead, the bill requires the Public Service Commission to promulgate updated pole attachment regulations by the end of the year.

After the Kentucky Senate unanimously approved the bill late Tuesday afternoon, the House followed hours later.

The bill sets aside $250 million from Kentucky’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package, but only $50 million of the funds will be allocated before April, 2022.

Republican Senate Pro Tem David Givens said lawmakers were “planting the seed” and could make more decisions about funding in the future.

“Let’s get people doing it right before we start overfunding or funding in ways that cause potential mischief or poor investments,” Givens said.