Scofield’s Proposal to Expand Broadband in Rural Alabama Passes the State Senate

By Clay Scofield

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – This afternoon the Alabama State Senate took a major step toward broadband expansion in rural Alabama by passing Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) Alabama Rural Broadband Act. Senate Bill 149 is a free-market approach to increasing private investment to expand high-speed internet access across the state.

“In the 1930s the infrastructure challenge was electricity, and in the 60s and 70s it was ensuring rural areas had clean drinking water. Expanding access to broadband internet is the infrastructure challenge of our day. We must ensure that all Alabamians have an opportunity to succeed in the digital economy,” Scofield said. “Currently, thousands of families and businesses in rural Alabama are without access to fast broadband. That’s unconscionable.”

SB149 provides a 10% investment tax credit and sales and use tax exemptions for companies that build qualified broadband telecommunications network facilities in underserved areas of Alabama. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and a legislative oversight committee are tasked with overseeing implementation of the legislation. All of the incentives will expire in five years, unless renewed by the state legislature.

“Students, families, and business owners in rural Alabama desperately need fast broadband internet,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said. “Senate Republicans are committed to making sure that all of Alabama thrives as our state economy continues to grow. I commend Sen. Scofield for his able leadership in moving this legislation forward.”

The World Bank commissioned a study in 2015 that showed a 10% increase in broadband penetration could increase economic growth by 1.2%. It also stated that doubling broadband speeds can add 0.3% to GDP growth.

Scofield’s bill now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for consideration.

Clay Scofield is a third generation farmer and represents District 9 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Marshall, Blount, DeKalb, and Madison Counties. He is Chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee.