Public Utility District. A public utility district (PUD) in existence on June 8, 2000, may construct and operate any telecommunications facilities within or without the PUD's limits for the following purposes:
PUD authority to provide retail telecommunications services to end users is limited to when:
Port District. A port district (port) in existence on June 8, 2000, may construct and operate any telecommunications facilities within or without the district's limits for the following purposes:
A port that has not exercised its authority by June 7, 2018, must develop a business case plan before exercising this authority. The business case plan must be reviewed by an independent qualified consultant. Ports do not have the authority to provide telecommunications services to end users.
Counties, Cities, and Towns. The state Constitution requires the Legislature to provide a uniform system for county and city government; however, it allows cities that meet population specifications and counties to adopt home rule charters establishing differing governing systems as long as no provision is contrary to current federal or state laws. In addition, the Optional Municipal Code provides broad home rule powers to cities that meet certain requirements.
Cities are municipal corporations classified according to their population at the time of organization. First-class cities are those with a population of 10,000 or more that have adopted a city charter. Second-class cities are those with a population of 1500 or more that have not adopted a city charter and do not operate under the Optional Municipal Code. Towns have a population of less than 1500 and do not operate under the Optional Municipal Code.
According to a 2003 attorney general opinion, charter counties and first-class cities and cities operating under the Optional Municipal Code have the authority to offer telecommunications services to their residents to the extent not specifically barred by statute. These municipalities with home rule powers do not need express or implied statutory authority to enact local legislation. Other cities, towns, and counties are limited to those powers granted by statute and currently do not have this authority.
Retail Authority. A PUD may construct and operate telecommunications facilities to provide either retail or wholesale, or both, telecommunications services:
A port may construct and operate telecommunications facilities to provide retail telecommunications services within or outside of the district's limits.
A town, second-class city, and county may construct and operate telecommunication services or telecommunications facilities to provide its inhabitants with telecommunications services.
Reports. Before providing retail telecommunications services, PUDs and ports are encouraged to examine and report to its governing body the following about the area to be served:
For the purposes of this report, unserved means a census block in which no provider has the capacity to deliver Internet access service at speeds of a minimum 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
Repeals. The following are repealed:
PRO: We should not restrict PUD, port, city, and county authority to serve their communities. Certain cities have unrestricted retail services. The bill does not mandate broadband. It removes restrictions that prohibit municipalities from serving the public and provides flexibility and opportunity to collaborate in order to provide people with more solutions and options.
Without retail authority, we cannot access federal funds. It will take too long to build out to all areas. Federal funds are needed for costly Internet highway builds.
The current structure is not meeting the needs of our communities. This is an equity issue in rural and urban areas. It is critical to make broadband available to everyone. We need reliable, affordable Internet service to educate our children, provide access to telehealth, and recruit businesses to our areas.
CON: Private companies have invested billions in broadband infrastructure. Retail authority alone will not ensure access to federal funds. The bill does not prevent overbuild, provide guardrails, or ensure the unserved will get served first. Public entities would be able to selectively pick where they want to provide service. This bill would have a significant negative impact on my lively hood.
OTHER: This is a step in the right direction but recommend continuing to focus on unserved areas. Municipal service could be helpful to unserved areas. Washington is one of the most connected states. This bill risks disrupting this success.