Albany, N.Y.-- New York State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira)has introduced legislation to establish a new "broadband tax credit" as a way to encourage high-speed Internet providers to expand their services to underserved areas.
"Providing citizens across upstate New York with equal access to high-speed Internet must be a high priority. High-speed Internet has become fundamental to our economic and educational success," said Winner, chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR). "But getting it done is going to require state government incentives that encourage broadband providers to expand affordable service to rural and other underserved regions."
The LCRR, according to Winner, estimates that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have high-speed, or broadband, Internet access through either cable modem, DSL, fiber, or wireless service. However, he added, the digital divide is not solely a rural phenemon. Many suburban and urban households also remain without such broadband internet access.
Winner said that he was glad to see Governor Eliot Spitzer, in his recently proposed 2007-08 state budget, seek $50 million for a "Universal Broadband Access" initiative that will begin to more clearly identify underserved areas, as well as compile a map of existing state and local infrastructure that could be used to expand access. In 2006 Winner sponsored a law that directed several state agencies to examine strategies for expanding high-speed Internet access to rural and other underserved areas. This forthcoming report from the Empire State Development Corporation is expected to offer a broad set of recommended actions and help guide the proposed Universal Broadband Access effort.
It’s a necessary and logical first step, Winner said.
"This action represents one of the keys to fully bringing the excitement and prosperity of a high-tech future to rural New York. Rural communities must find a niche in the continued emergence of New York State's high technology industry. We have to focus on building the necessary infrastructure and work force to cement rural New York's place in that future," said Winner.
Bringing broadband Internet service to new customers, especially in low-population areas, is a costly proposition for providers. Winner said that offering targeted tax relief could encourage some broadband providers to immediately begin expanding their service areas. Legislation he’s introduced in the Senate (Senate Bill #1049/Assembly Bill #2726) would:
-- establish a broadband tax credit equal to 10 percent of the qualified expenditures incurred for providing current generation broadband services to at least 10 percent of the subscribers in a rural or other underserved area; and
-- offer a 20 percent tax credit for the provision of next generation broadband.
"A bipartisan, widespread commitment throughout New York government to make high-speed Internet accessible and affordable for every community is the key to a long-term, sustained effort," said Winner. "But we also need to begin, right now, to try to spark an expansion wherever we can."