November 15, 2019

Senators Hassan, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Bills to Spur Investment in Rural Broadband

The Two Bills Would Create a Tax Credit for States and Localities to Direct Toward Rural Broadband Projects, and Support Public-Private and Municipally Directed Rural Broadband Bonds

WASHINGTON – Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced two bipartisan bills to help states, cities, and towns spur investment in rural broadband projects. The bills complement ongoing efforts in New Hampshire to provide local governments with innovative financing options for broadband projects, giving states and localities additional resources to invest in rural broadband.

The Rural Broadband Investment Tax Credit Act, led by Senator Hassan and cosponsored by Senator Capito, would create a federal tax credit that states and localities could direct toward rural broadband projects. The Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act, led by Senator Capito and cosponsored by Senator Hassan, would allow state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance public-private rural broadband projects, and allow the federal government to assist state and local governments in bond payments. 

“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,” said Senator Hassan. “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.”

“Since launching Capito Connect in 2015, I’ve been working every angle to ensure rural areas get reliable, affordable connectivity,” Senator Capito said. “The bills I’ve introduced with Senator Hassan provide additional funding revenues for communities looking to invest in rural broadband. By incentivizing buildout and expanding financing options, these bills work together to help close the digital divide in West Virginia and across rural America.” 

Following the 2018 passage of New Hampshire SB 170, which permitted localities to issue municipal bonds for broadband construction, New Hampshire towns have started to use that authority to expand broadband access to their residents. The access to new bond and tax credit authority in the Hassan-Capito bills would serve as additional tools that states and localities can flexibly tailor to the broadband needs of their residents.

As part of their efforts to close the rural-urban digital divide, Senators Hassan and Capito have partnered on efforts to expand rural broadband access. They introduced the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act  to help ensure that there is equitable wireless and broadband service in rural and urban areas, which has long been undefined. The two Senators are also cosponsors of the bipartisan Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which would push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve its broadband coverage maps by directing the FCC to require more detailed coverage data from service providers, and develop a process for consumers and stakeholders to challenge the accuracy of those broadband maps. Additionally, Senators Hassan and Capito serve together as Honorary Co-chairs for the Global Women’s Innovation Network (WIN), an organization that provides a dynamic forum for women who are passionate about innovation.

Read a one-pager on the new bills that Senators Hassan and Capito introduced here. To read the section by section, click here

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