The State Assembly voted 81-15 on Thursday to pass Assembly Bill 647, which would allow the Public Service Commission (PSC) to make a total of $6,000,000 in broadband expansion grants in any fiscal year until the total appropriation is depleted. Under current law, PSC can only make up to $1.5 million in grant awards each year. Libraries and schools are not currently eligible for these grants.
Democrats argued throughout the debate for increased funding for broadband infrastructure. An amendment offered by Democrats would have accepted federal money for Medicaid expansion, increased funding for broadband expansion grants by $23 million; and allowed schools, public libraries and technical colleges to apply for broadband expansion grants. The amendment was not adopted.
The Senate must approve the bill before it can become law.