Suma Friends - we want to close out June by celebrating good work and great news. For many months, suma has been steadily working with Free Geek, Centro Cultural, other members of our Broadband Coalition, the City of Portland, the Oregon Broadband Office, BATs (Broadband Action Teams), Rep. Pam Marsh and others to develop HB3201, legislation to help overcome the digital divide in broadband services and internet access.
Access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet is a racial, economic and disability justice issue – an essential utility that community members need to connect to education, employment, healthcare, public services, and support networks. But roughly 177,000 Oregon households lack internet access, including roughly 42,000 rural households (US Census Bureau. American Community Survey Five-year Estimates, 2016-2020).
Together, we wanted to make sure that all Oregonians on the wrong side of the digital divide - urban, rural, suburban - have a chance to benefit from this legislation and the major federal broadband investments that could be heading to Oregon. Together, that’s just what we did…
Last week, HB3201 passed out of the Oregon Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Kotek. We think co-sponsor Senator Campos put it best in her remarks on the floor: “HB 3201B is intended to serve all Oregonians who lack sufficient access to broadband. From the beginning a primary concern and the work that has been done has been to ensure that underserved Oregonians rural and urban can benefit from the unprecedented federal investment. This bill ensures that this happens in an equitable manner.”
And right on the heels of passing HB3201, we learned that Oregon is set to receive $688M in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding from the federal government, part of President Biden’s Internet For All program.
That’s right, a generational broadband investment is coming to Oregon, and it’s guided by an HB3201 that was developed by a broad group of public and private stakeholders, including groups that organize and advocate with low-income people, people of color, adults with disability, and other frontline communities.
Now, it’s not all cake and ice cream and smooth sailing and friendly agreements. There’s a lot of work ahead - rulemaking, grant processes, partnership building, keeping our commitment to frontline communities throughout the state, pushing back on powerful stakeholders who are used to feeding first - but we wanted to share the great news, celebrate our partners, and shout out to suma’s digital justice program team for playing a part in this collective story.