Seventh District Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) is proposing legislation that would change the way rural communities in Washington are defined.

The onus for Kretz's House Bill 1835 (HB 1835) is the need to increase high-speed internet connectivity in the state's more sparsely populated areas.

Kretz says the primary issue with connecting the state's rural regions to swifter internet service through products like fiber optics lies in the cost.

"We've got a pretty good backbone of fiber right now in Okanogan County, but let's face it, there's just not enough customers out in those rural areas to justify the expense for private providers. The cost to do that per mile just doesn't pencil."

Kretz says HB 1835 would assist rural municipalities in becoming more competitive for grants and other funding sources by redefining the state's definition of "rural" from it's current language of 100 residents per square mile to 50 per square mile.

"When we put money into 'rural' in the State of Washington, what I've noticed is that it seldom makes it further out than places like Pullman or North Bend. That is not rural. If we're going to seriously talk about getting internet out to the parts of our state that are truly rural, we've got to be looking at different ways of doing it and I think this new definition would do just that."

Kretz believes the state should consider establishing alternatives to fiber internet service in its rural areas, such as low-orbit satellite and broadband providers.

HB 1835 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Innovation, Community & Economic Development, & Veterans next Tuesday (Jan. 23).

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