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New Arizona law sets sights on expanding broadband access

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

PHOENIX – Broadband access across Arizona, particularly in rural areas, is expected to improve under a bill signed into law Monday, state officials said.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2596, which authorizes private internet providers to install, operate and maintain telecommunication equipment within the Arizona Department of Transportation’s rights of way – for example, a state highway.

“Arizona is growing and people are moving here at a record pace — and we need to ensure all parts of our booming state are connected,” Ducey said in a press release Monday.

ADOT’s participation will reduce the cost of “installing rural broadband infrastructure, the governor’s office said.

The legislation also created the Smart Highway Trust Fund, where leasing revenues stemming from ADOT’s rights of way will be kept. Funding will be used for operation and maintenance of telecommunication facilities.

“We are excited to be part of this partnership to close the broadband gap and meet the needs of Arizonans,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. 

A fact sheet released by the Biden administration in April found that nearly half of Arizona’s households, 45%, are in areas with just one broadband internet provider and that 13% of households didn’t have an internet subscription.

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