Bipartisan bills would direct funding to rural broadband

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WASHINGTON (WFXR) –Bills introduced in the U.S. Senate this week could help the Commonwealth and other locations take a big step in modernizing broadband.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) co-sponsored the two bipartisan bills this week. The Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act would allow the federal government to offer financial support to state and local governments. Those governments would then issue tax-exemptions for funding public-private rural broadband projects. Meanwhile, the Rural Broadband Investment Tax Credit Act would allow state and local governments to direct a federal tax credit toward rural broadband projects.

Virginia has already made significant progress in rural broadband installations. In July, Congressman Denver Riggleman (R-Afton) designated a $27 million grant for broadband expansion in Bedford, Brunswick, Charlotte, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties. Furthermore, during an interview with WFXR News in August, Riggleman voiced his optimism about the introduction of the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 and the re-authorization of National Defense Authorization Act, which would feature block grants for expansion of rural broadband.

Unfortunately, Commonwealth Connect, a state agency under the office of Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.), reports that about 660,000 Virginians cannot access broadband internet.

Capito says that “By incentivizing buildout and expanding financing options, these bills work together to help close the digital divide in West Virginia and across rural America.”

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