State, federal bills aimed at improving broadband access

  • Shelley Moore Capito Courtesy photo—

  • Maggie Hassan Courtesy photo—

  • Jeanne Dietsch Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/20/2019 11:44:01 AM

Last year, the legislature approved a bill to allow towns to take out bonds to build internet infrastructure. This year, bills at the state and federal level seek to build on that success with new ways for towns to fund and collaborate internet build-outs.

State senator Jeanne Dietsch (D-Peterborough) is currently drafting a bill that would allow towns in the state to join with their neighbors to finance broadband projects.

The bill is based on an existing bill that allows towns to partner for sewer services.

Dietsch said the bill would mostly benefit smaller towns who aren’t able to entice internet service providers with their small or spread-out populations.

“A tiny town cannot attract an internet service provider by itself. This gives them the ability to get someone’s attention,” Dietsch said. 

Dietsch said for a town like Peterborough, which has access to high-speed internet in its center, agreements with border towns could help fill in the town’s edges, where speeds are less robust.

“In Peterborough, we basically have good internet on the Route 101/Route 202 axis, and as you move into the corners, it gets poorer and poorer,” Dietsch said. “If we get the surrounding towns involved, we can get the town’s corners covered as well.”

The federal legislature is also proposing bills this session to address broadband investment.

U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have introduced two bi-partisan bills to spur broadband infrastructure by providing new options to finance it.

The first bill, the Rural Broadband Investment Tax Credit, would create a federal tax credit states and municipalities could use for rural broadband initiatives. 

The bill would create a federal investment tax credit which would cover 10 percent of an internet provider’s investment in gigabit speed-capable broadband in rural areas. Each state would be guaranteed $5 million in investment tax credits annually, with additional credits available based on states with large areas of rural population. 

States and towns can nominate broadband projects for the tax credits, and if a state exceeds its annual tax credit, the state can choose to prioritize projects.  

The Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act would allow states and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds which would finance partnerships between towns and internet providers to finance broadband projects, and allow the federal government to assist with bond payments.

In a statement issued last week, Hassan said reliable broadband is increasingly vital. 

“From innovative small businesses owners who need reliable broadband access to kids across our state who need to get online to do their schoolwork, it’s clear that more work needs to be done to ensure that rural communities in the Granite State and across the country have better broadband access,” Hassan said. “The bills that Senator Capito and I introduced give states and localities the resources and flexibility that they need to assess and finance broadband projects in the areas that most need it.”

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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