Florida Senate - 2021                             CS for SB 1560
       By the Committee on Commerce and Tourism; and Senator Ausley
       577-02879-21                                          20211560c1
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to broadband Internet service;
    3         amending s. 364.0135, F.S.; revising legislative
    4         findings; defining terms; revising the duties of the
    5         Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of
    6         Economic Opportunity; requiring local technology
    7         planning teams or partnerships to work with rural
    8         communities for specified purposes; requiring the
    9         office to develop geographic information system maps
   10         in collaboration with specified entities and
   11         consistent with certain federal reporting standards by
   12         a specified date; specifying required contents of the
   13         maps; requiring the department to annually update such
   14         maps and establish a mechanism to receive and verify
   15         governmental and public input related to broadband
   16         Internet service; authorizing the department to work
   17         collaboratively with specified entities in developing
   18         the mechanism; requiring the office to develop a
   19         broadband infrastructure asset map by a specified
   20         date; specifying required contents of the map;
   21         establishing the Broadband Deployment Task Force
   22         within the office for a specified purpose; requiring
   23         the department to provide administrative and technical
   24         assistance to the task force; providing for the
   25         membership and duties of the task force; requiring the
   26         task force to submit annual progress reports to the
   27         Governor and the Legislature by a specified date;
   28         providing that certain information provided to the
   29         department from broadband service providers retains
   30         its exemption from public disclosure; creating s.
   31         364.0136, F.S.; creating the Broadband Opportunity
   32         Program within the office; providing for
   33         administration of the program; providing requirements
   34         for grant awards; providing eligibility requirements;
   35         providing application requirements; requiring the
   36         office to publish certain information related to grant
   37         applications and grant awards on its website;
   38         authorizing grant applications to be challenged under
   39         certain circumstances; specifying contents of a
   40         challenge; providing procedures to be used by the
   41         office in evaluating challenges; providing direction
   42         for prioritizing grant funding; specifying conditions
   43         for the award of grants; requiring the office to enter
   44         into an agreement containing specified information
   45         with each grant recipient; requiring the office to
   46         publish specified information annually on its website
   47         and provide the information to the Governor and
   48         Legislature; creating s. 364.0137, F.S.; defining
   49         terms; requiring the office to establish a process to
   50         identify eligible households to receive federal
   51         Emergency Broadband Benefit Program funds under
   52         certain circumstances; providing for direct subsidy
   53         payments; providing for household participation in the
   54         program; requiring the office to provide certain
   55         information to potentially eligible households;
   56         providing an effective date.
   58  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   60         Section 1. Section 364.0135, Florida Statutes, is amended
   61  to read:
   62         364.0135 Promotion of broadband adoption; Florida Office of
   63  Broadband.—
   64         (1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.—The Legislature finds that the
   65  sustainable adoption of broadband Internet service is critical
   66  to the economic and business development of this the state and
   67  is essential beneficial for all residents of this state,
   68  libraries, schools, colleges and universities, health care
   69  providers, and community organizations.
   70         (2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
   71         (a) “Department” means the Department of Economic
   72  Opportunity.
   73         (b) “Office” means the Florida Office of Broadband.
   74         (c) “Sustainable adoption” means the ability for
   75  communications service providers to offer broadband services in
   76  all areas of this the state by encouraging adoption and use
   77  utilization levels that allow for these services to be offered
   78  in the free market absent the need for governmental subsidy.
   79         (d)“Task force” means the Broadband Deployment Task Force
   80  within the office.
   81         (e)(d) “Underserved” means a geographic area of this the
   82  state in which there is no provider of broadband Internet
   83  service that offers a connection to the Internet with a capacity
   84  for transmission at a consistent speed of at least 100 10
   85  megabits per second downstream and at least 10 megabits 1
   86  megabit per second upstream.
   87         (f) “Unserved” means a geographic area of this state in
   88  which there is no provider of broadband Internet service that
   89  offers a connection to the Internet with a capacity for
   90  transmission at a consistent speed of at least 25 megabits per
   91  second downstream and at least 3 megabits per second upstream.
   92         (3) STATE AGENCY.—The department is designated as the lead
   93  state agency to facilitate the expansion of broadband Internet
   94  service in this the state. The department shall work
   95  collaboratively with private businesses and receive staffing
   96  support and other resources from Enterprise Florida, Inc., state
   97  agencies, local governments, and community organizations.
   98         (4) FLORIDA OFFICE OF BROADBAND.—The Florida Office of
   99  Broadband is created within the Division of Community
  100  Development in the department for the purpose of developing,
  101  marketing, and promoting broadband Internet services in this the
  102  state. The office, in the performance of its duties, shall do
  103  all of the following:
  104         (a) Create a strategic plan that has goals and strategies
  105  for increasing the use of broadband Internet service in this the
  106  state. The plan must include a process to review and verify
  107  public input regarding transmission speeds and availability of
  108  broadband Internet service throughout this the state.
  109         (b) Build and facilitate local technology planning teams or
  110  partnerships with members representing cross-sections of the
  111  community, which may include, but are not limited to,
  112  representatives from the following organizations and industries:
  113  libraries, K-12 education, colleges and universities, local
  114  health care providers, private businesses, community
  115  organizations, economic development organizations, local
  116  governments, tourism, parks and recreation, and agriculture. The
  117  local technology planning teams or partnerships shall work with
  118  rural communities to help the communities understand their
  119  current broadband availability, locate unserved and underserved
  120  businesses and residents, identify assets relevant to broadband
  121  deployment, build partnerships with broadband service providers,
  122  and identify opportunities to leverage assets and reduce
  123  barriers to the deployment of broadband Internet services in the
  124  community. The teams or partnerships must be proactive in
  125  fiscally constrained counties in identifying and providing
  126  assistance with applying for federal grants for broadband
  127  Internet service.
  128         (c) Encourage the use of broadband Internet service,
  129  especially in the rural, unserved, or underserved communities of
  130  this the state through grant programs having effective
  131  strategies to facilitate the statewide deployment of broadband
  132  Internet service. For any grants to be awarded, priority must be
  133  given to projects that:
  134         1. Provide access to broadband education, awareness,
  135  training, access, equipment, and support to libraries, schools,
  136  colleges and universities, health care providers, and community
  137  support organizations.
  138         2. Encourage the sustainable adoption of broadband in
  139  primarily underserved areas by removing barriers to entry.
  140         3. Work toward encouraging investments in establishing
  141  affordable and sustainable broadband Internet service in
  142  underserved areas of this the state.
  143         4. Facilitate the development of applications, programs,
  144  and services, including, but not limited to, telework,
  145  telemedicine, and e-learning to increase the usage of, and
  146  demand for, broadband Internet service in this the state.
  147         (d) Monitor, participate in, and provide input in
  148  proceedings of the Federal Communications Commission and other
  149  federal agencies related to the geographic availability and
  150  deployment of broadband Internet service in this the state as
  151  necessary to ensure that this information is accurately
  152  presented and that rural, unserved, and underserved areas of
  153  this the state are best positioned to benefit from federal and
  154  state broadband deployment programs.
  155         (e)By June 30, 2022, develop geographic information system
  156  maps of broadband Internet service availability throughout this
  157  state. The office shall collaborate with broadband service
  158  providers, state agencies, local governmental entities, private
  159  businesses, educational institutions, and community
  160  organizations and leaders to develop such maps.
  161         1.The maps must do all of the following:
  162         a.Be consistent with the Digital Opportunity Data
  163  Collection program reporting standards established by the
  164  Federal Communications Commission.
  165         b.Identify where broadband-capable networks exist and
  166  broadband Internet service is available to end users.
  167         c.Identify download and upload transmission speeds made
  168  available to businesses and individuals in this state.
  169         d.Identify gaps in broadband Internet service coverage,
  170  specifying underserved and unserved areas within those areas of
  171  this state designated as a rural area of opportunity under s.
  172  288.0656(2).
  173         e.Include any other mapping information already compiled
  174  by other state agencies.
  175         f.Be updated annually.
  176         2.Any mapping data received from another governmental
  177  entity or a contractor must be verified. Such data must be
  178  verified against the source of the data and whether such entity
  179  is able to demonstrate that it has employed a sound and reliable
  180  methodology in the collection, organization, and verification of
  181  the data it has submitted to the office. If a governmental
  182  entity enters into a valid contract with a contractor to collect
  183  broadband availability data, the entity must describe the third
  184  party providing the data as well as the methodology used to
  185  collect, organize, and verify the availability data provided.
  186         3.The office must establish a mechanism to receive and
  187  verify public input which identifies locations in which
  188  broadband Internet service is not available, including locations
  189  in which broadband Internet service is provided at data
  190  transmission speeds below the standard established by the
  191  Federal Communications Commission for broadband Internet
  192  service. Upon verification, the board shall adjust its
  193  geographic information system maps to reflect information
  194  received from the public. In developing and implementing this
  195  mechanism, the office may work in collaboration with, and
  196  receive staffing support and other resources from, Enterprise
  197  Florida, Inc., state agencies, local governments, private
  198  businesses, and community organizations.
  199         (f)By June 30, 2022, develop a broadband infrastructure
  200  asset map that includes, but is not limited to:
  201         1.State and federal assets, including, but not limited to,
  202  municipally or city-owned towers that may be used by providers;
  203  rights-of-way that may be made available for easier and less
  204  expensive access to burying or stringing fiber optic cable;
  205  public transportation corridors; capital projects that may be
  206  used as an opportunity to lay new fiber optic conduit for future
  207  activation; and federal E-rate funding commitments; and
  208         2.Community-owned land and infrastructure, including, but
  209  not limited to, land that may be leased and utility poles that
  210  may be used to expand broadband networks.
  211         (g)Administer the Broadband Opportunity Program
  212  established in s. 364.0136.
  213         (5)BROADBAND DEPLOYMENT TASK FORCE.—The Broadband
  214  Deployment Task Force, a task force as defined in s. 20.03(8),
  215  is established within the department to support and provide
  216  recommendations to the office for the deployment of broadband
  217  Internet service throughout this state, including, but not
  218  limited to, rural buildout and urban adoption strategies. The
  219  department shall provide administrative and technical assistance
  220  to the task force in the performance of its duties. The task
  221  force shall operate in a manner consistent with s. 20.052.
  222         (a)The task force shall be composed of the following
  223  members, who must be appointed by September 1, 2021, and who
  224  must have an interest and significant expertise in broadband
  225  Internet services:
  226         1.One member from each of the following state agencies,
  227  who shall be appointed by his or her agency head: the Department
  228  of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of
  229  Management Services, the Department of Transportation, the
  230  Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the
  231  Office of Technology and Information Services.
  232         2.One member from the Florida Association of Counties as a
  233  representative of underserved or unserved rural communities, who
  234  is recommended by the association and appointed by the executive
  235  director.
  236         3.One member from the Florida League of Cities as a
  237  representative of underserved or unserved rural communities, who
  238  is recommended by the league and appointed by the executive
  239  director.
  240         4.Two members of the public who are appointed by the
  241  Governor, including one member who resides in an underserved
  242  area of this state and one member who resides in an unserved
  243  area of this state.
  244         5.One member from each of the following segments of the
  245  broadband industry, who shall be appointed by the Governor: a
  246  wireless provider, a wireline provider, a broadband satellite
  247  provider, a cable provider, a rural local exchange carrier, and
  248  a competitive local exchange carrier.
  249         (b)Any vacancy on the task force must be filled in the
  250  same manner as the original appointment.
  251         (c)The task force shall:
  252         1.Identify any available federal funding sources for the
  253  expansion or improvement of broadband Internet services in this
  254  state.
  255         2.Identify any gaps in broadband Internet service coverage
  256  for any area of this state.
  257         3.Develop strategies to expand broadband Internet service
  258  to any area of this state designated as a rural area of
  259  opportunity, including, but not limited to, methods of building
  260  partnerships with local governments, other state and federal
  261  entities, electric utilities, the business community, and the
  262  public to support broadband Internet service in such areas.
  263         4.Develop an urban adoption strategy to address areas of
  264  this state which have broadband Internet service, but where such
  265  service is not affordable.
  266         5.Identify specific projects that will accomplish the
  267  deployment of broadband Internet service throughout this state,
  268  including grants provided through the rural infrastructure fund
  269  pursuant to s. 288.0655(2)(b).
  270         6.Coordinate with the Cabinet, state agencies, and other
  271  governmental entities with oversight in broadband Internet
  272  activities or potential funding opportunities.
  273         7.Recommend outreach strategies and partnerships for
  274  maximum use of the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
  275  within the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Pub. L. No.
  276  116-260 and regulations adopted thereunder.
  277         (d)The task force shall submit a report of its findings
  278  and recommendations to the Governor, the President of the
  279  Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by
  280  December 30, 2022, and each year thereafter.
  281         (6)CONFIDENTIALITY.—Any information that is confidential
  282  or exempt from public disclosure under chapter 119 when in the
  283  possession of the department retains its status as confidential
  284  or exempt from disclosure under chapter 119 when provided by a
  285  broadband service provider under this section.
  286         (7)(5) ADMINISTRATION.—The department may:
  287         (a) Apply for and accept federal funds for purposes of this
  288  section.
  289         (b) Enter into contracts necessary or useful to carry out
  290  the purposes of this section.
  291         (c) Establish any committee or workgroup to administer and
  292  carry out the purposes of this section.
  293         Section 2. Section 364.0136, Florida Statutes, is created
  294  to read:
  295         364.0136Broadband Opportunity Program.—
  296         (1)The Broadband Opportunity Program is established within
  297  the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of
  298  Economic Opportunity to award grants to applicants who seek to
  299  expand broadband Internet service to unserved and underserved
  300  areas of this state. The office must administer and act as
  301  fiscal agent for the program and is responsible for receiving
  302  and reviewing applications and awarding grants. Funding for the
  303  program shall be subject to appropriation.
  304         (2)Grants awarded under this section shall fund the
  305  installation or deployment of infrastructure that supports the
  306  provision of broadband Internet service. State funds may not be
  307  used to install or deploy broadband Internet service to a
  308  geographic area in which broadband Internet service is already
  309  deployed by at least one provider.
  310         (3)Applicants eligible for grant awards include:
  311         (a)Corporations, limited liability companies, general
  312  partnerships, and limited partnerships that are organized under
  313  the laws of this state or otherwise authorized to transact
  314  business in this state.
  315         (b)Indian tribes.
  316         (4)The office may not award, directly or indirectly,
  317  grants under this section to a governmental entity, a rural
  318  electric cooperative or its broadband affiliate, or an
  319  educational institution or affiliate to provide broadband
  320  Internet service to any residential or commercial premises,
  321  unless other broadband Internet service providers have not
  322  deployed service to an unserved or underserved area.
  323         (5)An eligible applicant shall submit a grant application
  324  to the office on a form prescribed by the office. A grant
  325  application must include all of the following information:
  326         (a)A description of the project area.
  327         (b)A description of the kind and amount of broadband
  328  Internet service infrastructure which is proposed.
  329         (c)Evidence demonstrating the unserved or underserved
  330  nature of the project area.
  331         (d)The number of households and businesses which would
  332  have access to broadband Internet service as a result of the
  333  grant.
  334         (e)A list of significant community institutions that would
  335  benefit from the grant.
  336         (f)The total cost of the project and the timeframe in
  337  which it would be completed.
  338         (g)A list identifying sources of funding or in-kind
  339  contributions that would supplement any awarded grant.
  340         (h)Any other information required by the office.
  341         (6)(a)At least 30 days before the first day grant
  342  applications may be submitted each fiscal year, the office shall
  343  publish on its website the specific criteria and quantitative
  344  scoring system it will use to evaluate or rank grant
  345  applications. Such criteria and quantitative scoring system must
  346  include the criteria set forth in subsection (7).
  347         (b)Within 3 business days after the close of the grant
  348  application process, the office shall publish on its website,
  349  from each grant application submitted, the proposed unserved or
  350  underserved areas to be served and the proposed broadband
  351  Internet speeds of the areas to be served.
  352         (c)A broadband Internet service provider that provides
  353  existing service in or adjacent to a proposed project area may
  354  submit to the office, within 45 days after publication of the
  355  information under paragraph (b), a written challenge to an
  356  application. The challenge must contain information
  357  demonstrating that:
  358         1.The provider currently has deployed broadband Internet
  359  service to retail customers within the project area;
  360         2.The provider has begun construction to provide broadband
  361  Internet service to retail customers within the proposed project
  362  area within the timeframe proposed by the applicant; or
  363         3.The provider commits to providing broadband Internet
  364  service to retail customers within the proposed project area
  365  within the timeframe proposed by the applicant.
  366         (d)Within 3 business days after the submission of a
  367  written challenge, the office shall notify the applicant, in
  368  writing, of the challenge.
  369         (e)The office shall evaluate each challenge submitted
  370  under this subsection. If the office determines that the
  371  provider currently has deployed, has begun construction to
  372  provide, or commits to provide broadband Internet service in the
  373  proposed project area, the office may not fund the challenged
  374  project.
  375         (f)If the office denies funding to an applicant as a
  376  result of a broadband Internet service provider’s challenge, and
  377  the provider does not fulfill its commitment to provide
  378  broadband Internet service in the unserved or underserved area,
  379  the office may not consider another challenge from the provider
  380  for the next two grant application cycles, unless the office
  381  determines that the failure to fulfill the commitment was due to
  382  circumstances beyond the provider’s control.
  383         (7)(a)In evaluating grant applications and awarding
  384  grants, the office must give priority to applications that:
  385         1.Offer broadband Internet service to important community
  386  institutions, including, but not limited to, libraries,
  387  educational institutions, public safety facilities, and health
  388  care facilities;
  389         2.Facilitate the use of telemedicine and electronic health
  390  records;
  391         3.Serve economically distressed areas of this state, as
  392  measured by indices of unemployment, poverty, or population loss
  393  which are significantly greater than the statewide average;
  394         4.Provide for scalability to transmission speeds of at
  395  least 100 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per
  396  second upload;
  397         5.Include a component to actively promote the adoption of
  398  the newly available broadband Internet service in the community;
  399         6.Provide evidence of strong support for the project from
  400  residents, government, businesses, and institutions in the
  401  community;
  402         7.Provide access to broadband Internet service to the
  403  greatest number of unserved and underserved households and
  404  businesses;
  405         8.Leverage greater amounts of funding for a project from
  406  private sources; or
  407         9.Demonstrate consistency with the strategic plan adopted
  408  under s. 364.0135.
  409         (b)The office must endeavor to award grants to qualified
  410  applications serving all regions of this state.
  411         (8)(a)The office may not award any grant to an otherwise
  412  eligible grant applicant to provide broadband Internet service
  413  in a project area for which any other federal funding has been
  414  awarded.
  415         (b)A grant awarded under this section may not be used to
  416  serve any retail end user that already has access to broadband
  417  Internet service.
  418         (c)A grant awarded under this section, when combined with
  419  any state or local funds, may not fund more than 50 percent of
  420  the total cost of a project.
  421         (d)A single project may not be awarded a grant in excess
  422  of $5 million.
  423         (9)For each grant awarded, the office shall enter into an
  424  agreement with the applicant. The agreement must specify the
  425  total amount of the grant, performance conditions that must be
  426  met to obtain the grant, the schedule of payment, and sanctions
  427  that would apply for failure to meet performance conditions,
  428  including, but not limited to, requiring the return of grant
  429  funds.
  430         (10)By January 1, 2023, and each year thereafter, the
  431  office shall publish on its website and provide to the Governor,
  432  the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of
  433  Representatives all of the following information:
  434         (a)A list of all grant applications received during the
  435  previous fiscal year and for each application:
  436         1.The results of any quantitative weighting or scoring
  437  system the office used to award grants or rank the applications.
  438         2.The grant amounts requested.
  439         3.The grant amounts awarded, if any.
  440         4.A report on the progress of each grant recipient in
  441  acquiring and installing infrastructure that supports the
  442  provision of broadband Internet service in the project areas for
  443  which that grant was awarded and in securing adoption of such
  444  service in each project area.
  445         (b)All written challenges filed during the previous year
  446  and the results of those challenges.
  447         Section 3. Section 364.0137, Florida Statutes, is created
  448  to read:
  449         364.0137Broadband assistance funds.—
  450         (1)For purposes of this section, the term:
  451         (a)“Broadband service provider” means a provider of
  452  broadband Internet access service in this state.
  453         (b)“Federal broadband program” means the Emergency
  454  Broadband Benefit Program within the Consolidated Appropriations
  455  Act, 2021, Pub. L. No. 116-260 and regulations adopted
  456  thereunder.
  457         (2)In order to assist participating broadband service
  458  providers in identifying potential recipients for broadband
  459  assistance funds under the federal broadband program, the
  460  Florida Office of Broadband, as created in s. 364.0135, must
  461  establish a process to quickly identify potential eligible
  462  households to receive such funds.
  463         (3)An eligible broadband service provider that
  464  participates in and receives funds under the federal broadband
  465  program must provide direct subsidy payments by providing
  466  monthly discounts for eligible households as set forth in the
  467  federal broadband program. A provider may not disqualify a
  468  household because a member of the household has any past or
  469  present arrearages with a broadband provider. Such discounts may
  470  be no more than the standard rate for an Internet service
  471  offering and associated equipment, in an amount equal to that
  472  set forth in the federal broadband program.
  473         (4)To be eligible for direct subsidy payments, an eligible
  474  household must demonstrate low income. Such eligible households
  475  include those in which at least one member of the household is
  476  eligible for the National School Lunch Program or the School
  477  Breakfast Program, as provided in s. 595.402, has experienced a
  478  substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, has received
  479  a federal Pell Grant, is eligible for the federal Lifeline
  480  program, or meets participation requirements for a service
  481  provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program, subject to
  482  any other eligibility requirements required by the Federal
  483  Communications Commission.
  484         (5)Where possible, the office shall provide potentially
  485  eligible households with notice of their potential eligibility
  486  to receive financial assistance under the federal broadband
  487  program and shall also direct the members of those households to
  488  other state or federal resources that may provide assistance
  489  with debt relief.
  490         Section 4. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.