After Congress set aside $7.2 billion for broadband projects in the stimulus package, Internet advocates heralded the bill as a welcome first step for bringing the country’s digital communications infrastructure up to speed. But only a first step.
Count among those Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, who this morning introduced the Connecting America Act of 2009, a bill that would create tax credits and a bond program to encourage private and community investment in broadband networks.
Much like the first tranche of the stimulus money, Hutchison’s bill favors development in areas where broadband service is slowest or nonexistent.
One section of the tax incentives, for instance, offers a 15 percent credit for qualified investments that increase service speeds by 50 percent, and a 30 percent credit for projects that deliver networks with at least 10 Mbps downstream speeds to unserved areas.
Net neutrality advocates are likely to take issue with the bond program in Hutchison’s bill, designed to spur community investment in new broadband projects.