Senators push for faster broadband rollout

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), have introduced legislation in attempt to try and speed deployment of broadband Internet connections to rural and other underserved areas of the country.

The Broadband Internet Access Act of 2005, S.B. 1147, would set up a two-tiered tax incentive scheme to allow service providers to take tax deductions for up to 50 percent of their investment on current generation technologies, such as cable and DSL, and 100 percent on "next generation" technologies, such as fiber optics.

High-speed Internet access is an important tool for advancing economic development in cities, Rockefeller said, but it's even more critical for rural communities because their resources are much smaller than those of urban areas.

"While efforts are being made to bring broadband service to all regions, the fact remains that this vital component of our telecommunications infrastructure is still being deployed more rapidly in urban areas,” Snowe said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Sessions (R-Texas) introduced the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005, H.R. 2726, to prohibit municipal governments from offering telecommunications, information or cable services except in cases where private companies are not or will not offer similar services.

Critics say the bill is an attempt to stifle a growing movement of municipalities looking to provide their own broadband services for government, business and residential use. Cities such as Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle have already indicated they want to do just that, as have a number of smaller entities.

However many states, pushed by the telecom industry, have been considering legislation similar to that introduced by Sessions that would ban these moves. A bill to do just that had been hotly debated in Sessions' home state of Texas, but it recently died before conferees could reconcile different versions of the proposed law.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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