Aug. 11, 2023

TO: Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue
FROM: Tom Still, president, Wisconsin Technology Council
RE: Senate Bill 266

The Wisconsin Technology Council stands in support of SB 266, which would extend the state’s ability to make full use of Wisconsin of the anticipated $1.055 billion in federal aid through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. Wisconsin can stretch those dollars an estimated $83 million further if the BEAD broadband expansion grants are not subject to Wisconsin’s 7.9% corporate income tax rate.

The Tech Council’s support for broadband expansion — especially in rural areas of the state — dates back nearly to our 2001 inception as a bipartisan advisor to state government.

Consider this passage from our 2007-08 “white papers” report to the governor and the Legislature, which captures the essence of why SB 266 should be adopted.

“Wisconsin is still a state of small towns and rural communities. Some of these areas lack the critical mass of people, institutions and capital to easily attract high-tech businesses. But that does not mean they are bereft of assets. Rural communities and small cities can offer a quality of life that is attractive to many workers. They can supply highly motivated workers with a commitment to quality. They can offer lower business costs for land and construction.  For rural Wisconsin to prosper in the real-time economy, however, it must fully participate in the global communications revolution. State laws governing broadband investment … should more closely mirror those in surrounding states as well as federal requirements. Significant departures from laws in other jurisdictions could slow the deployment of broadband, especially in rural areas.”

The full rollout of broadband in Wisconsin has waited long enough. Some of the roadblocks identified in the Tech Council’s 2007 report are still present; meanwhile, other states are finding ways to move ahead and to take full advantage of their BEAD grants.

Given the amount of physical work involved in such a rollout, Wisconsin should remove as many barriers as possible now. Lost state tax revenue will be recouped over time by the economic activity near-universal broadband will unlock. The Tech Council supports SB 266 and urges committee approval.


Tom Still, president