WisBusiness: Doyle Pledges to Sign Broadband Expansion Tax Credit

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Gov. Jim Doyle plans to sign the broadband bill passed by both the state Senate and Assembly on Tuesday, a top aide said Wednesday afternoon.

“The governor supports it,” said spokesman Matthew Canter. “In fact, he helped lead the way for it. It’s part of his Grow Wisconsin plan.”

The legislation will give telecommunications companies tax exemptions if they provide high-speed Internet service to parts of Wisconsin that lack it or are underserved – mostly in the rural and northern areas of the state.

The program has an annual limit of $7.5 million annually and will be administered by the state Commerce Department. TDS, SBC and other telecom companies support it.

Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, authored the bill. His aide, Mike Richards, agreed that the legislation had bipartisan support.

“This was one where most everyone was in agreement,” he said. The vote was 27-6 in the Senate and 80-13.

Andrew Petersen, director of legislative and public relations for TDS called the legislation a “win-win” for everyone.

“We hope this will make Wisconsin more competitive,” he said. “It’s a better deal than either Minnesota or Michigan have.

“In terms of investing in these under or unserved areas, the sales tax exemption of 5.5 percent a year for three years might just convince our finance guys that it’s a good thing to do,” he added.

Dan Kanninen, chief of staff for Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said Jauch’s northwest Wisconsin district should benefit from the new law.

“In the far north, a lot of people have very few or even no choices for broadband,” he said. “This should give the telecom companies strong incentive to invest and that’s what we want.”