Editorial board: Back broadband with tax exemption

2014-06-13T05:00:00Z Editorial board: Back broadband with tax exemptionStar-Tribune editorial board Casper Star-Tribune Online
June 13, 2014 5:00 am  • 

Wyoming must be wired.

Just as roads crisscross the state, creating valuable corridors for commerce and tourism, the state's wire and communication lines are vital to the future of the state's economy. 

That's why we ask that state lawmakers look favorably on a recent request by the Wyoming Telecommunications Association. The group wants the Legislature to OK a sales and use tax exemption, essentially a tax loophole, for the broadband industry on things such as fiber optics, coaxial cabling and wireless towers.

The association estimates the breaks would save the industry -- and potentially cost state coffers -- $2.4 million a year. Yet the tax break is meant to spur roll-out of more a broader, stronger Internet network across the state -- to fill in gaps and accelerate speeds. That's development worth encouraging.

There are encouraging signs on the broadband front. Gov. Matt Mead, who has called broadband an equalizer for small towns in terms of remote-access medicine and education and telecommuting, has been a champion of wiring the state. And lawmakers have signed on, voting to approve millions in the most recent state budget to expand Wyoming's broadband backbones, a move we wholeheartedly supported.

But there's still a long way to go. A 2013 federal report indicated that in the previous year, 35.4 percent of rural areas in Wyoming didn't have broadband access, and less than half -- 44 percent -- had what would be considered a strong broadband capability. 

Lawmakers at a recent Joint Revenue Interim Committee hearing did express concern about such exemptions, since they're seldom examined to see if they pay off for taxpayers. We sympathize with that concern. But in terms of Internet capability, it's quite possible to find out if companies are using the money saved through the tax exemption to build out Wyoming's broadband.

The state Public Service Commission, which already has expertise dealing with such companies, might be the right body to ensure broadband companies are reinvesting tax savings into infrastructure.

It’s absolutely critical Wyoming get an expanded broadband infrastructure, and with some accountability for the savings, we expect a tax exemption will strengthen and speed the work. 

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. cprfamily
    Report Abuse
    cprfamily - June 18, 2014 10:06 am
    Wireless technology for rural BB delivery is not technically superior and has generally been found not to be financially superior. Remember, it might be wireless for the last mile, but requires a fiber infrastructure to the tower or NAP site. Wireless tech has many potential capabilities but up to this point, even with advanced MIMO antennas, the reliability and throughput is just not there. Once the rural communities obtain the broadband access their use and utilization of broadband very quickly increases exponentially and quickly outstrips the capabilities of wireless. The "hard-wire" companies are seeking these exemptions because it is expensive to cost justify laying fiber in sparsely populated areas. They are not getting their butt kicked by wireless companies. Most last mile wireless companies are localized businesses, with a limited service offering and are totally dependent on the area's fiber infrastructure provider.

    Strining fiber thru our empty spaces makes sense both from a technology perspective and an economic perspective. Once rural communities have broadband, they use it, expand on it and grow with it. Wireless is a last mile application, not a transport application. Without the fiber to the tower, business park, etc, wireless doesn't do you much good.
  2. commonsnese
    Report Abuse
    commonsnese - June 14, 2014 9:26 am
    Good points Hill Town. Might I suggest we start calling these subsidies and tax breaks what they really are, CORPORATE WELFARE paid twice by you and I. ,Once as a taxpayer and once as a consumer. Big Corporations hate welfare for the little guy yet love it for their companies and pay packages.
  3. Dewd
    Report Abuse
    Dewd - June 14, 2014 9:04 am
    Exempt the buildout. That will encourage the construction and development of broadband service.
    Then, Tax the bandwidth and service once it's up and running, as a defacto utility.

    Just like oil and gas development---give a tax break on the exploration and in initial development, then collect ad valorem taxes on the product ( crude oil, MCF gas, etc

    Any questions ?
  4. Don Wills
    Report Abuse
    Don Wills - June 13, 2014 11:27 am
    More rent seeking by big corporations. It always works for the big crony "capitalist" corporations who control Wyoming politics. It's bad for Wyoming citizens who must pay sales taxes on cars, equipment, and everything else except food.
  5. Hill Town Trader
    Report Abuse
    Hill Town Trader - June 13, 2014 10:19 am
    Stringing wires through Wyoming vast empty spaces makes no sense. Wireless technology for delivering internet to rural areas is financially and technologically superior.

    The hard-wire based companies are seeking special tax status because the wireless broadband providers are kicking their butt. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing outdated technology, when better technology is available.
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