February 10, 2022

Tallahassee, Fla. – Connect The Future (CTF) Florida and its supporters cheered progress in the state legislature on a proposal to accelerate the buildout of high-speed internet service to Florida’s unserved communities. Introduced by Sen. Jim Boyd (District 21) and Rep. Josie Tomkow (District 39), the bicameral proposal (SB 1800, HB 1543) would tap one-time federal funds to replace aging, wooden utility pole infrastructure unable to accommodate modern broadband equipment. The proposal was approved unanimously this January by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and by the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy last week.

“We applaud Senator Boyd and Representative Tomkow for advancing critical legislation to bring greater broadband connectivity to unserved Floridians,” said Zachary Cikanek, executive director of CTF.

“Too many utility poles still need to be upgraded to handle new broadband attachments, and the impact on rural families is profound. The latest economic analysis shows that every month pole issues delay broadband expansion, Florida loses between $13.6 million to $99.51 million in economic gains. Sending this proposal to the governor’s desk will help to finally eliminate those barriers, unlocking up to $16.83 billion in long-term economic benefits to Florida’s families and businesses,” added Cikanek, highlighting new research released by CTF and presented to the Federal Communications Commission by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.

Supporters across the state joined CTF in applauding the legislation, emphasizing the benefits to Florida’s economy, rural communities, and families.  

“Universal broadband access is within reach for Florida, but immediate action is needed to advance the Boyd-Tomkow bicameral proposal to ensure taxpayers get the most from their investment, to keep Florida competitive, and to attract continued investment,” said Steve Scruggs, president of the Lakeland Economic Development Council. “With five local colleges and universities, and a growing population, Lakeland is an ideal home for businesses looking to create high-skill jobs. To support that growth, we must ensure that families and employers have the tools they need to compete in the 21st-century economy.”

“Under this proposal, Florida can make smart use of historic, one-time funds available to the state treasury to serve educators, students, and families that have been left behind for too long,” said Mary Glass, president of Manatee Education Foundation in Bradenton. “The students, faculty, and families we support in Manatee County work tirelessly to ensure that our kids are getting the opportunities they deserve, and that task has only grown more challenging during the pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we ensure every student has access to modern digital skills and tools, and this bill will help to make that goal a reality.”   

“Today, nearly 20 percent of Florida’s rural population remains without broadband access, and this proposal offers the legislature and Governor DeSantis a clear plan to help close the gap,” said Eric D. Stonestrom, president & CEO of Boca Raton-based Airspan Networks, a leading provider of software and hardware for telecommunications networks. “Florida has always been a technology leader, and with the right policies, businesses like Airspan can do even more to ensure that benefits of innovation are available to all Floridians.”

CTF Florida is committed to working with policymakers to ensure every Floridian has access to reliable broadband connectivity in the digital age. Read more about CTF Florida and its mission HERE.