Gov. Steve Bullock has an opportunity to promote additional investment broadband deployment in Montana. The state Legislature has passed a bill, SB 239, by substantial bipartisan majorities to encourage broadband providers to augment investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure. By signing SB 239 into law, the governor can help Montana’s business and residential consumers benefit from greater access to broadband capabilities.
The social and economic benefits of broadband connectivity are well known. The Internet enables students to take courses offered anywhere in the world. It enables patients to visit their doctor from home and for doctors to remotely monitor their patients’ health without the patients having to travel long distances to make a traditional visit. Broadband creates opportunities for Montanans to return home and keep their jobs by telecommuting to the main office out of state. (Or, they can create their own businesses with worldwide reach, while enjoying the Montana lifestyle.) The Internet is enhancing agriculture with a panoply of smart ag applications. And with broadband capabilities, emergency services are more robust, saving lives. In short, high-seed broadband connectivity opens unlimited opportunities for new businesses, entertainment, home conveniences, and so on.
Montana’s broadband providers invest millions of dollars every year to deploy broadband infrastructure throughout the state. Yet despite these substantial efforts, there is more to be done. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that nearly half of Montanans lack access the Internet at speeds the FCC considers standard.
Recognizing the need to expand broadband deployment in Montana, the 2019 Montana Legislature has passed SB 239. This legislation provides a temporary tax holiday for deployment of high-speed broadband cable. Any tax savings that the bill creates must be reinvested into additional broadband deployment in Montana. It costs an average of $30,000 per mile to deploy fiber optic cable. SB 239 helps reduce that cost and reinvests the tax savings into additional fiber deployment.
As Montana’s broadband providers invest in broadband infrastructure, they create additional assets that expand the tax base for state and local revenues.In addition, since broadband access expands economic activity, investment in high-speed broadband also leads to additional revenue for state and local governments. One recent study finds that for every $1 invested in broadband, $4 of economic benefit are generated.
SB 239 accelerates broadband connectivity to more Montanans. Montana can join other states that have established broadband deployment incentives that encourage additional investment in high-speed Internet access for businesses and residents throughout their states.
SB 239 is a small step toward bringing broadband to all consumers in Montana. The bill has passed the Legislature and has headed to the governor’s office for his approval. I urge Gov. Bullock to sign SB 239 into law, and accelerate broadband deployment to more Montanans.
Montana Telecommunications Association