Rural broadband bill passes Senate

A proposed tax credit to foster the spread of high-speed Internet to rural areas made its way throug

A proposed tax credit to foster the spread of high-speed Internet to rural areas made its way through the state Senate last week.

Reasonable out-of-pocket expenses would be reimbursed to private citizens and small businesses that pool their resources to pay a broadband provider to deploy into their underserved community. The proposal, which is bipartisan and whose co-sponsors include Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, and Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, is designed to be a continuation of similar efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has directed more than $30 million to expanding high-speed Internet access.

Under the proposal, the broadband provider wouldn’t be eligible for any state money and would have to commit to a “significant” contribution toward construction costs. The legislation’s memorandum estimates that 10,000 New Yorkers would annually benefit from this credit, which would cost the state about $10 million per year.

Tkaczyk described this credit as a job creator, arguing that broadband Internet is a critical component of modern business infrastructure. She said this credit would generate local investment, which would lead to action by broadband providers, who had previously stayed out of rural areas because providing services there wasn’t cost-effective.

Marchione said the proposal would lead to greater entry into the information age and innovation economy. “Being connected to broadband really means being connected to commerce, capital and the world,” she said.

Ken Rose, CEO of Montgomery County Business Development Center, said broadband access would allow small businesses, schools and families to take advantage of technological advances that are meaningless without high-speed Internet.

“Expanding broadband as proposed [in this bill] would help businesses in Montgomery County to grow, create new jobs and better serve their customers,” Rose said.

The Assembly version of this bill is sponsored by a member of the majority, but it has yet to move through the committee process since being introduced in May.

Tkaczyk is also the sponsor of the Broadband Internet Access Act, which is a tax credit to companies that install new broadband service. This is a more ambitious program, with a annual price tag of $100 million per year for four years.

The regular legislative session ends on Thursday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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