We own a cabin in the mountains of South Carolina. It is rural and remote and 1700 feet from the county road. Our electric co-op just hung a fiber-optic box on the wall and we are waiting for the modem and router installation. Here in Tennessee there is no future in sight for high speed broadband in most of our rural areas. Here's why:

An initial draft of the broadband investment act included a provision to remove barriers for nonprofit electric cooperatives to build more high-speed networks in rural areas. But AT&T successfully lobbied for the bill to change into only a tax cut. As the largest private broadband company in Tennessee AT&T is likely to receive the lion’s share of the tax benefit versus the nonprofit cooperatives that are, in most cases, not paying sales tax.

Last year, lawmakers passed a $204 million sales tax exemption for broadband companies.

On the surface, the tax break looked mild and was innocently named the Broadband Investment Maximization Act. But after diving into the bill's history and who will benefit, the legislation is anything but.

The act was initially designed as a compromise between electric cooperatives and AT&T, Tennessee's biggest political spender. But after some lobbying from the telecom giant, lawmakers removed the part benefiting cooperatives. All that was left was a tax cut primarily helping AT&T.


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