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Ports Obtain Authority to Provide Wholesale and Retail Broadband under New Legislation

September 8, 2021

Overview

Port districts in Washington now have broad authority to extend broadband into unserved areas. ESHB 1336 amends RCW 53.08.370 to grant ports broad authority to provide wholesale and retail telecommunication services within district boundaries and in some cases, by agreement with other government entities outside district boundaries. Prior to providing such service, ports are required to report certain feasibility and planning information about the proposed telecommunications service area to their governing bodies and the state broadband office.  

Governor Jay Inslee also signed 2SSB 5383 simultaneously, which also amends RCW 53.08.370 to provide wholesale and retail communications but only in “unserved areas” and imposes additional requirements on ports providing such service.

In seeking judicial guidance, Washington Secretary of State, Kim Wyman has determined that the acts should be filed in the order in which they passed the legislature. ESHB 1336 passed one day after 2SSB 5383, so the conflicts between the two should be resolved in favor of ESHB 1336.

Both bills took effect on July 25, 2021, and it remains to be seen how the state’s Office of the Code Reviser will address the conflicts between the two bills, so ports that are considering providing retail broadband will want to monitor this closely. Because ESHB 1336 was adopted later in time by the legislature, presumably its broad grant of authority will override the restrictions set forth in 2SSB 5383, but keep on the lookout for final resolution.

This article summarizes aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.

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