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ODOT on expanding rural broadband access

ODOT on expanding rural broadband access

House Bill 4095 was introduced this February, stating opportunities for extending broadband internet access. The bill asks the Oregon Department of Transportation to coordinate, for the purpose of laying fiber optic cable, access to trenches which are open during road construction. The bill is headed by Oregon House Republicans Rep. Julie Parrish (R – West Linn/Tualatin) and Rep. Dennis Richardson (R – Central Point).

The bill would set up a process for ODOT to notify Internet service providers of upcoming
highway projects. ODOT will reach out to the industry to determine the needs of the ISPs and how best the agency can assist with the expansion of rural Oregon Internet service.

During a public hearing last week in the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee, ODOT officials agreed to work with House Republicans on broadband access, which is a key legislative priority for the caucus the 2014 session.

“Economic recovery thus far has been limited primarily to the more urban areas of the state,” Rep. Richardson said. “House Republicans want to ensure that there are opportunities for economic growth provided to residents in rural Oregon, and it’s critical that we have the infrastructure in place to make that happen.”

Paul Mather, administrator for ODOT’s highway division, provided written and oral testimony on HB 4095 during the Feb. 5 hearing. That testimony included a letter from ODOT Director Matthew Garrett affirming the agency’s commitment to cooperating with internet service providers to expand broadband access.

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“ODOT will reach out to the Oregon Telecommunications Association to determine how best to notify ISPs about upcoming highway projects and to coordinate with them on the installation of service lines during these projects,” Garrett wrote.

Rep. Parrish heralded Mather’s testimony and Garrett’s written remarks as a step in the right direction.

“We cannot afford to have any further urban-rural divide in this state, especially when it comes to accessing to technology,” Rep. Parrish said. “I appreciate ODOT’s willingness to work with our caucus on this very important issue, and I remain optimistic that they will honor their commitment to cooperate with ISPs for the benefit of rural Oregonians.”



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