Two bills push broadband access

Two pairs of U.S. senators introduced bills Tuesday aimed at enticing companies

to expand broadband services in rural areas.

"It is critical to economic development," said Don Marshall, the spokesman

for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who co-sponsored one of the bills. "To

run a new business in the new economy, companies must have access to broadband

technology."

The bills take different approaches to persuading companies to bring the

technology that enables fast Internet connections to rural areas. Firms

are inclined to avoid developing the infrastructure in rural areas because

the distances between homes and businesses makes it an expensive process.

Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) and Sen. Tom Daschle's (D-S.D.) Rural Broadband

Enhancement Act is modeled after the Rural Electrification Act that brought

electricity to rural areas. It would establish over five years a $3 billion

revolving loan fund.

That fund would provide low-interest loans to finance construction of broadband

infrastructure in rural areas. The loans would be repayable over 30 years

at two percent interest.

Rockefeller's and Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-Me.) Rural Telecommunications

Modernization Act would offer companies that invested in rural broadband

facilities a 10 percent tax credit per year for three years.

The credit would apply only to investments for "broadband local access facilities,"

providing equipment such as fiber optics, Digital Subscriber Line, wireless

enhancements and cable TV network upgrades that would provide high-speed

service.

Dorgan's spokesman, Barry Piatt, said loans would be a "more aggressive

and effective" system because they provide "upfront financing." Loans are

also more appealing, he said, because the government is paid back.

Don Marshall, Rockefeller's spokesman, said that although he has not read

Dorgan and Daschle's bill, he felt that neither was "better than the other

and conceivably they both could work together."

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