Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tax incentives unlikely to improve business case for private telecom infrastructure investment

The Dream Divide: Fighting the Classism of the Digital Age - Morning Consult: Governors would have the authority to declare participating areas of their respective states as Gigabit Opportunity Zones, and this bill would enable such zones to attract broadband providers with capital gains tax deferrals on any funds directly invested in broadband expansion. Gigabit Opportunity Zones would also offer firms an option for immediately expensing broadband equipment instead of drawing out their returns on investment over the depreciation period. When local governments have support for improving their broadband policies and the tools — tax deferrals and immediate expensing — to attract meaningful investment in high-speed internet access, their communities’ doors swing open to multiple internet providers.

Georgia Congressman Doug Collins who wrote the above in an op-ed piece overlooks the fact that the biggest expense in constructing telecommunications infrastructure isn't equipment. It's labor at about 70 percent of overall costs. As such, this proposal based on tax breaks to incentivize infrastructure investment isn't likely to significantly improve the business case for private investor-owned providers to make the necessary upfront capital investment.

Federal policymakers should instead face the fact that private investment capital is not sufficiently patient for major infrastructure due to overly long waits for investment returns and create a federal telecom agency to build fiber to every American home, business and school. The United States is already decades behind where it should be on replacing its legacy metallic telephone and cable TV 20th century infrastructure with modern fiber optic cables for the modern digital age. Continuing to pursue weak, ineffective solutions such as those proposed by Collins will only prolong the digital divide of which he complains.

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