A new law in Arkansas has cleared the way for local governments to “acquire, construct, furnish, equip, own, operate, sell, convey, lease, rent, let, assign, dispose of, contract for or otherwise deal in facilities and apparatus for” broadband delivery. GovTech reports that Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the bill into law earlier this month.
The bill was drafted to amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, and received the unanimous support of both the Arkansas House and Senate. “This opens it up where we can get some new competitors into this field,” said state Senator Ricky Hill, who introduced the bill.
Prior to the enactment of the new law, only cable and telephone companies were able to enter the broadband market in Arkansas. There are restrictions written into the law that require public hearings and oversight if the local government plans to finance broadband expansion with “bonds or other indebtedness.” However, the requirement is waived if the government owns an “electric utility system or television signal distribution system” whose only purpose is to benefit the public good. Qualifying services include law enforcement, emergency management, health care and education.