A bill that would give telecommunications companies installing broadband infrastructure in Montana tax breaks is one step closer to signing the bill.
Elliston Republican MP Becky Beard said that incentives for businesses to deploy high-speed internet infrastructure would create jobs and economic activity in a state that is currently among the worst in broadband access in the country.
“We need high-speed internet in order to function competitively. Even ask our schools about this need. It’s been a lifeline for so many of us, “Beard said.
Senate Bill 51 would provide a five-year tax break for companies laying fiber optic or coaxial cables, provided they use savings to install more cables. The exemption would expire 20% per year, with the infrastructure being taxed at 100% of its value for 10 years after installation.
Missoula Democratic MP Mark Thane turned down the bill, saying it does not prioritize the rural and tribal communities hardest hit by the digital divide.
“Under this bill, additional wiring that may be redundant for these urban communities can receive tax incentives,” Thane said.
The House gave the first approval for the bill on Tuesday on almost partisan lines. It faces another vote before moving to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte, who included the proposal in his Montana comeback plan that was released on the campaign.
During a press conference, Democratic lawmakers teased several broadband bills that are about to come off their caucus and will pull in incoming funds for federal coronavirus.
Kevin Trevellyan is the Yellowstone Public Radio report for America Statehouse Reporter.