There’s been a recent push in the editorial pages urging the governor to sign Senate Bill 239, which would grant a tax holiday to companies who provide internet service. As a legislator, I opposed this bill because the industry consistently misrepresented the intent of it. The lobbyists said SB239 would bring broadband to rural Montana. It won’t. This bill does nothing but give the telecom industry a tax break, which will eventually shift more of the property tax burden to homeowners. Here’s how.
SB239 does not specify that tax incentives will only be going to be given to rural projects. Rather, the industry is getting a tax break on all their cable property. So ask yourself; with fiber optic cable costing $30,000 per mile to install, will these companies build their new infrastructure in urban areas like Bozeman or will they lay cable out to Buffalobutt out in Petroleum County? Let’s be real. Once they get their tax break, these corporations will forget about rural Montana faster than you can say “corporate giveaway.”
Internet access is critical for growth, but rural Montana will be best served by different technology than fiber optic cable. Within a few years, satellite internet will be a fast and far, far cheaper alternative than cable for rural customers. The telecom lobbyists know that, but by playing the “Help Rural Montana,” card they just might just get themselves a nice, juicy tax break. That’s their game plan.
Rep. Tom Woods