HOUSE Bill 2979 ("relating to broadband deployment projects") was a candidate for the most boring legislation until a last-minute amendment sparked a debate that is overdue.
The bill concerned the distribution by the Broadband Deployment Council of $2 million for projects that expand Internet access.
Frontier Communications, the largest broadband provider in the state, lobbied for instructing the council to give priority to people who have no Internet access. Frontier wants to serve the 85,000 households in the state that have only satellite connections.
Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, introduced such an amendment and Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, who works for Frontier, was among its supporters.
They argued that giving everyone access to the Internet should take priority over upgrading access for those who already have it.
But is that a wise use of limited funds?
There are 740,000 households in the state. Should 655,000 or so households go without improvements in their Internet speed so a company can extend service to people who live far off the beaten track?
"If we have 10 folks up in Possum Hollow that have no access to broadband access, would they receive priority over the thousand people who only have two megabytes of broadband access?" asked Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph.