Trenton – In an effort to address the digital divide which continues to plague the state, the Senate Economic Growth Committee advanced legislation today sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Nicholas Scutari which would create the “Broadband Assistance Office” in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
“Access to equipment was and remains critical during this time and the infrastructure to support it is just as necessary,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “While many students are returning to the classroom, high-quality internet access continues to play an integral part in our everyday lives during the pandemic and beyond. Expanding access to broadband will ensure every household and business around the state can get the internet service they need.”
Under the bill, S-3086, the office would formulate and execute a statewide plan to provide wired broadband service through government and private entity participation. They would coordinate financial and technical assistance to communities with households and small businesses that cannot afford to receive broadband service or areas within municipalities that lack adequate broadband service.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored what we already knew to be true – in today’s day and age internet access is a necessity. Look no further than remote learning, virtual doctor visits and a vaccine registration site hosted almost entirely online,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “We have a responsibility to our residents to ensure high-quality internet services are available and accessible to all New Jerseyans, regardless of their income or their zip code.”
The bill would establish a non-lapsing fund to carry out the requirements of the bill.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 4-0.