The Maryland Legislature is currently considering a package of bills designed to expand broadband access in the state, and advocates are weighing in on the potential impact of these measures.
Governor Wes Moore’s broadband expansion package proposes tax incentives for broadband companies to expand into underserved areas. The package includes a state tax reduction for companies that receive federal grants for broadband deployment and an exemption on sales and use taxes on purchases of broadband equipment, from modems to larger-scale infrastructure components.
Tammy Bresnahan, the Director of Advocacy for AARP Maryland, emphasized that the bills aim to promote broadband expansion in both rural and urban areas. Bresnahan stated that “Broadband, like water, like electric, has now become a vital utility for people to have.” She added that “If schools are closed, for some reason, people have to have access for their children and grandchildren, telehealth services. Also, it keeps people from being isolated.”
Bresnahan noted that broadband has been critical for enabling citizen advocates to offer remote testimony to the Maryland General Assembly, which is conducting committee meetings via a virtual hybrid model. During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband has also enabled seniors to access remote doctor visits via telehealth. Therefore, AARP is advocating for the extension of telehealth services through 2025, as the current telehealth provision allowing Medicaid and private insurers to pay for telehealth services is due to expire this year.
The Maryland Legislature will be in session until April 10. It remains to be seen if these bills will pass, but many advocates are hopeful that they will help increase broadband access across the state.