Senators Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., on May 18 reintroduced the Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act that would provide a boost in rural broadband investment to state and local governments.

The bipartisan bill would allow state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds for rural broadband projects, and allow the Federal government to assist in these bond payments.

Additionally, the bill would offer public-private partnership opportunities and create a Federal tax credit for rural broadband projects.

“Since launching Capito Connect in 2015, I’ve been pursuing every angle to ensure rural areas get reliable, affordable connectivity,” Sen. Capito said in a press release. “This legislation will provide additional funding opportunities for communities looking to invest in rural broadband. I’m proud to team up with Senator Hassan again to reintroduce this legislation that will help close the digital divide in West Virginia and across rural America by incentivizing buildout and expanding financing options.”

“This bipartisan bill would provide rural communities in New Hampshire with new financing options to expand their broadband infrastructure so that every household can get connected,” Sen. Hassan added.

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The Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act would allow each state to spend up to $25 million annually to support broadband infrastructure bonds.

That relatively modest amount of proposed support is dwarfed by bigger-picture broadband legislative and policy efforts.

A proposed Republican infrastructure improvement framework envisions $568 billion of investments over five years, versus President Biden’s proposal which clocks in with a $2 trillion price tag. On the broadband front, the GOP plan offers $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, compared to $100 billion under the Biden plan.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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