Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has introduced the Connecting America Act of 2009 to help boost broadband in unserved and underserved markets. Unlike the current grant and loan program underway through the broadband stimulus program, Hutchinson’s approach uses tax credits for companies investing in broadband infrastructure.
In what could be construed as a repudiation of the current stimulus program approach, Hutchinson says broadband development requires a “…a comprehensive approach that encourages private sector investment in our unserved areas and reform of existing federal programs to make sure we are spending scarce public resources in the most effective way.” The bill also allows communities to raise funding for “technology neutral” community broadband projects through bond issuance.
Qualifying broadband projects would have to meet minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps for upgrades of existing infrastructure or 10 Mbps for new projects in unserved territory. The bill also provides for a new government office, the Office of National Broadband Strategy, to help applicants traverse the multitude of government broadband programs.
The bill offers an interesting contrarian view to the current approach and will certainly flame the debate over the methodology and effectiveness of the existing broadband stimulus program. Given that program was launched by a Democratic administration, and with Democrats also controlling Congress, what do you think the odds are that this Republican sponsored bill will ever make it to the Senate floor for a vote?