Gigabit Opportunity Zones Bill Introduced

Would effectively legislate chairman Pai's proposal for spurring investment

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) has introduced a bill, the Gigabit Opportunity (or GO) Act, that she says would accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband in low-income and rural communities.

It would also add some Hill imprimatur to proposals already offered up by the current FCC chairman.

The bill would give tax breaks to companies for investing in gigabit-capable expansion into those communities, direct the FCC to release a framework that encourages states, counties and cities to voluntarily adopt streamlined broadband laws and be designated as a “Gigabit Opportunity Zone," and defer capital gains for upgrades and allow companies to expense the cost of creating those zones, as well as allow states to more easily issue tax-exempt bonds.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has launched two proceedings to make it easier to build out broadband, wireless and wired, and has proposed creating Gigabit Opportunity Zones providing such tax breaks and streamlined approvals for buildouts.

Capito's office points out that the bill stems from her work with Pai.

“The economic benefits of broadband are clear, especially in West Virginia," said Capito in introducing the bill. "Investments in broadband in our communities, coupled with smart public-private partnerships, can jumpstart economic development and create jobs,” Capito said. “The GO Act gives states flexibility, streamlines existing regulations and eliminates barriers to investment so we can better connect our low-income and rural communities.”

The bill was introduced in advance of a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday entitled "Investing in America’s Broadband Infrastructure: Exploring Ways to Reduce Barriers to Deployment," where Capito put in a pitch for the legislation and got some support from the witness panel.

“Introduced today by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the Gigabit Opportunity (GO) Act is an important step toward closing the digital divide, and one that has my full support," said Pai of the bill.  Next-generation networks are increasingly critical to economic opportunity, job creation, and civic engagement. But too many parts of rural and urban America can’t attract the investment needed to deploy those networks.  With targeted tax incentives and regulatory streamlining, the GO Act aims to remove the major barriers holding back Internet access in economically challenged areas.

“I commend Senator Capito for her vision of extending digital opportunity to all Americans.  The FCC shares that vision and stands ready to provide any necessary assistance to Congress as it considers this critical legislation.”