Rural phone service awaits Davis signature

September 19, 2001 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Every obstacle has been cleared to get phone service and Internet access for Del Norte Countys rural areas except for a signature by Governor Gray Davis.

That signature or veto is expected within the next 25 days.

Areas like Big Flat, parts of Gasquet, the Yurok reservation, Low Divide Road, and Rock Creek dont have regular phone service or Internet service.

State Assembly Member Virginia Strom-Martin has been fighting for two years to get those services where they are needed. And so far, her efforts have cleared both the State Assembly and State Senate floors.

I believe we have done a good job of showing the governor how important it is for unserved communities to get the level of telephone service that we all consider to be a fundamental right, Strom-Martin said.

Dubbed the rural telecommunications grant bill, the new law would create a pool of $10 million a year to make grants available to qualified communities.

The grants would pay for the poles, wire and services required to extend phone lines where they are needed.

To get the grants, communities must demonstrate it suffers from low-income and must show a widespread desire for the project.

A local government agency must also be in support of the project and act as the money manager for the grants such as the city or county government or tribal council.

If the bill is not vetoed by Oct 14, it will become law on Jan. 1. Then it will be up to the communities interested in phone service to pursue the grants.

Strom-Martin said she is confident the governor will support the bill. Davis actually vetoed a similar bill last year due to a few specific concerns.

This year, Strom-Martin worked with Public Utilities Commission President Loretta Lynch to draft a new bill addressing Davis concerns.