2 months ago

State Senator hopes to spur rural broadband development in Alabama with incentive program


A state senator in Alabama hopes the third time is the charm in his effort to spur rural broadband development by creating tax incentives for providers.

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, told Yellowhammer News he plans to file legislation on Thursday that has the same three-pronged approach he’s tried in the past.

The legislation would exempt broadband telecommunications network facilities from taxation for 10 years, exempt equipment and materials used by those facilities from the state’s sales and use tax, and would offer an income tax credit equal to 10 percent of the investment in those facilities.

Tax credits would be capped at $20 million per company – but a credit that large would require an investment of $200 million in rural Alabama.

Scofield introduced similar bills too late in the 2016 session to get any traction and his legislation passed the Senate before becoming stuck in the House in 2017. But he’s optimistic this year could be different, given the increased focus on broadband investment.

“Trump’s talking about it,” Scofield said. “Gov. Ivey included it in her State of the State address.”

Ivey, a native of Camden in rural Wilcox County, said in her speech Tuesday night that many rural communities in Alabama lack sufficient broadband access.

“Adequate broadband enhances educational opportunities, increases economic development prospects and develops critical communication systems,” she said. “I strongly support legislation to encourage new broadband investments, and I ask the Legislature to join me in assessing our state’s broadband needs, to ensure resources are placed where they are most needed.”

Scofield notes that rural broadband is lacking because the return on investment isn’t there for providers who must build costly infrastructure to serve sparsely populated regions. While providers such as AT&T are investing in new technologies such as fixed wireless, which beam internet signals from cell towers to nearby homes, those speeds are only a slight step up from DSL.

Some lawmakers are pressing for government to step into the fray, such as Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), who has introduced bills to allow the expansion of government-owned networks – such as the broadband system of Opelika Power Services located in his district.

But Scofield takes a more limited government approach, noting that the private sector has both the expertise and the economies of scale to do the job more efficiently.

While tax incentives have sometimes taken a beating as corporate giveaways, Scofield points out that his legislation is trying to spur development that doesn’t – and probably wouldn’t – exist without the laws he’s trying to create.

“Obviously, we’re not losing anything because nothing is there now,” he said.

The 2018 incarnation of his legislation will include a sunset provision after five years, and put the administration of the credits under the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Scofield said that since any federal broadband infrastructure funds that might be allocated by Congress in 2018 would likely go to ADECA, it makes sense to have that department oversee this program, too.

Scofield’s legislation would also create a legislative oversight committee that will ensure the incentives are effective.

“I don’t know any other incentive that has a legislative oversight committee,” he said. “So essentially there’s accountability built into the legislation.”

Johnny Kampis is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and has been published in such outlets as the New York Times, Time, Fox News and Daily Caller over the course of his nearly 20 years in journalism. He is the author of the upcoming book “Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros”  detailing his adventures at the World Series of Poker.


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13 hours ago

Alabama wins private property rights case against Obama-era regulations

In a victory for private property rights this week, the federal government agreed to reconsider rules adopted during the Obama-era that unreasonably restrict the freedom of Americans to use their land.

“We are encouraged that the Trump administration has agreed to revisit these rules, which threaten property owners’ rights to use any land that the federal government could dream that an endangered species might ever inhabit,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall said in a statement.

Why this matters: Under these rules, unelected federal bureaucrats could designate a piece of private property as “critical habitat” for an endangered species even if the land doesn’t contain that particular species and, moreover, doesn’t even contain some of the features needed to support that species. Use of the land would then be severely limited. 


The details:

— The state filed a lawsuit, Alabama v. National Marine Fisheries Service, in November of 2016 challenging the rules, calling them “an unlawful federal overreach.”

— Nearly 20 other states joined the lawsuit, along with four large trade associations.

— The settlement forces federal agencies to submit revised rules for public review within 60 days and retains our freedom to file another lawsuit if their new rules are as excessive as the old ones.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

13 hours ago

Jeff Sessions is right to sue California for ignoring federal immigration laws

America may be a country of immigrants, but it’s also a country of laws. No one is exempt from those laws regardless of what some local officials in sanctuary cities may think.

As you may have seen on the news recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a lawsuit against the State of California for failure to completely cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers.  I stand with AG Sessions’ decision.

From the mayors and local politicians disregarding federal immigration law to the illegal immigrants they are prioritizing over American citizens, it’s about time we hold these lawless individuals accountable.


The “leaders” in these cities are violating their oath of office and the Constitution.  They should be immediately removed from their positions and the illegal immigrants they are protecting should be deported. Period.

I agree with President Trump that we need to strengthen our borders.  We should build the wall and we should continue to support law enforcement’s crackdown on violent foreign gangs like MS-13.

These efforts mean nothing though if illegal immigrants and criminals can continue to seek refuge in some of our country’s largest cities.

It boils down to fairness, safety and what it means to be a sovereign nation.

A country without borders is hardly a country at all. I’m fed up with seeing the tax dollars from hard-working families across East Alabama go to cities who snub their nose at the very ideals that make America great.  Congress should withhold funding from sanctuary cities that refuse to uphold federal law.

President Trump has proven his tough stance on illegal immigration is much more than just campaign rhetoric. He has already done so much to curtail our illegal immigration crisis but he can’t do it alone.

Elected officials – from the state and local level to Members of Congress – must do their part.

And if they refuse, then they aren’t fit for public service.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks.

(Image:U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Flickr)

14 hours ago

WATCH: Cam Newton’s leadership message resonates with Boy Scouts

When Cam Newton speaks, people listen.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback had the full attention of the audience at the 11th annual American Values Luncheon.

Boy Scouts were among attendees that filled the meeting room at the North Exhibition Hall of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.


Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn joined Newton during a question and answer session. Famous for leading the Auburn Tigers to the 2010 National Championship under Malzahn’s leadership, Newton’s talk followed in the tradition of several other football greats, including Nick Saban, Shaquille O’Neal and Bo Jackson.

Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Jesse Lewis Sr. and Jimmy Rane were honored at the luncheon for their contributions to the community.

Newton shared his life experiences and lessons learned.

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)

15 hours ago

Celtic Pride! Joel Blankenship shares his Irish roots with The Ford Faction

Joel Blankenship makes his weekly return to The Ford Faction to talk the St. Patrick’s Day parade held in Birmingham and what the holiday means to him.  Joel mentions the law that can be passed to put Police K9’s in schools to help sniff out guns or drugs.  He provides feedback on what this could mean for schools and how it will benefit the need for police K9’s.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

16 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama Rep. Roby thanks Air Force secretary for decision to bring F-35s to Montgomery

U.S. Representative Martha Roby participated in a defense appropriations subcommittee hearing this week where she expressed her appreciation to Secretary Heather Wilson for the Air Force’s decision to base F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Dannelly Field in Montgomery.

Roby also discussed other military-related programs in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, including helicopter training at Fort Rucker near Enterprise and the professional education programs at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.

(Image: Representative Martha Roby/YouTube)