26 Apr Broadband deployment measure goes to governor
Madison, Wis. — Companion bills designed to stimulate broadband deployment and economic growth have passed the Wisconsin Legislature and now await the signature of governor Jim Doyle, who has expressed support for the legislation.
The bills, Assembly Bill 892 and Senate Bill 483, are known as the Broadband Deployment Act. They would provide $7.5 million in income tax credits to promote broadband development in rural and suburban areas in Wisconsin that currently lack access to high-speed Internet technologies and where dial-up Internet access is still the norm.
To be eligible for the credits, Internet access providers would be required to make an investment that is reasonably calculated by the Department of Commerce to increase broadband Internet availability in areas of the state not served by an Internet access provider. Communications providers that deploy broadband services in underserved communities would receive a state sales and use-tax exemption of up to 5.5 percent for three years, or 16.5 percent overall. Providers would have to make about $150 million in equipment investments in order to collect the full amount of the credit.
According to Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, one of the authors of SB 483, the tax credits will accrue to the Department of Commerce. The DOC then would make awards to Internet providers in areas where deployment actually would create broadband penetration. “We’re not suddenly going to plop down equipment in the middle of Vilas County where nobody lives,” said Kanavas.
Wisconsin ranks in the middle of the pack among the 50 states in broadband penetration, and the United States ranks only 16th in the world in the same category. Part of the problem for providers is that extending the last mile of fiber optic cable often is cost prohibitive, which is where the tax credits come in.
That’s one reason that Drew Petersen, director of legislative and public relations for TDS Telecom, applauded the bipartisan legislation. “This legislation will assist TDS in completing our corporate efforts to deploy ubiquitous high-speed Internet in our Wisconsin markets, and is an excellent legislative example of a public/private partnership that can stimulate economic development and broadband deployment in deserving communities where investments would otherwise be uneconomical.”
Matt Canter, deputy communications director for Gov. Doyle, said the governor would sign the bill, but did not know when the bill signing would take place. Canter noted the governor has supported efforts like BadgerNet II, technical assistance to localities, and other ways to promote broadband deployment. “The governor has led a number of efforts to expand broadband and make it more affordable for businesses in every part of the state,” Canter said.
• AB 892
• SB 483
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