NEW JERSEY – Residents in more rural communities of the state could benefit from increased broadband communication service under legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho and approved Thursday by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
The measure (S-1458) is part of a package of bills introduced by Oroho and Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space (all R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) to boost internet speeds and the quality of telecommunication services in areas currently underserved by providers.
“It is 2020, and communication technology has evolved at a dizzying pace, but in many regions, the investment in infrastructure to deliver state-of-the-art service levels is inadequate,” Oroho said. “As a result, many New Jersey residents are being left behind by the digital evolution, especially as these advancements have become necessities for educational efficiency and successful business ventures. This bill will encourage providers to deliver to rural neighborhoods the same speeds and convenience the majority of the state already depends on.”
Oroho’s bill would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to offer loans to broadband telecom companies to expand coverage areas. The loans would be issued under an existing small business loan program already administered by the EDA.
“In my legislative district, too many communities remain hindered by low internet speeds and it has taken a toll,” Oroho said. “Portions of Sussex and Warren Counties, in particular, have incredibly low internet download rates. While most communities across New Jersey enjoy lightning-fast downloads, many internet users in my local area are stuck in the slow lane.”
Less than 20 percent of web surfers in Sussex get speeds over 100mbps. In comparison, in nearby Bergen County, families connected by Fios’ fiber optics have performance 50 times the speed.
“Poor internet connectivity has a detrimental effect on both the economy and schools,” Oroho said. “In this day and age, businesses and families deserve access to adequate, efficient levels of internet service. The EDA loans authorized by the legislation will help level the playing field for rural communities where people have had no choice but to manage with less.”
Oroho also sponsors S-1414, which directs BPU to allow broadband providers to use poles belonging to public utilities, and SCR-70, urges the State Board of Agriculture and NJ Department of Agriculture to explore ways to bring broadband services to rural communities. Assemblymen Wirths and Space sponsor the Assembly bill counterparts.