Closing the Digital Divide in Montana
Lawmakers and local officials should ensure that the taxpayers see their money well spent to provide internet access to those most in need as quickly as possible.
“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” – P.J. O’Rourke
Policymakers are taking on a veritable broadband bonanza this session, allocating millions of federal stimulus dollars to grant programs that will fund high speed internet expansion across the state.
This week, the Frontier Institute signed on to a letter along with a coalition of other groups providing the following recommendations to ensure funds are spent effectively and efficiently:
Focus Funds on Unserved Areas:
State lawmakers should ensure broadband funds flow to areas that lack broadband access, rather than providing funding for areas that already meet access standards.
Avoid Investment in Government Owned Networks:
When tried in other states, government owned networks have been costly, inefficient and done little to expand access. Furthermore, since government owned networks require ongoing taxpayer dollars to run, building networks will almost certainly lead to local taxpayers footing the bill.
Reduce Red Tape:
States should work to stretch every dollar as far as possible by removing red tape and embracing policies like “dig once,” which can reduce the cost of broadband deployment by 90 percent. Thankfully, the Montana legislature has already sent “dig once” policy to the governor’s desk.
Ensure Adequate Funding for Approvals:
One of the most common excuses for delays in the deployment of both fiber and 5G equipment from regulators is a lack of resources or staff to sift through the many applications. With rapid deployment more important than ever, regulators should use the funding provided to them to assist in quickly reviewing and approving applications.
States have a once in a generation opportunity to close the digital divide in their states. Lawmakers and local officials should ensure that the taxpayers see their money well spent to provide internet access to those most in need as quickly as possible.
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Conservative Montana Budget
- Last week, the Senate voted to advance HB 2, the main budget bill. Are lawmakers delivering on a conservative budget that protects taxpayers?
Our Take: A Conservative Montana Budget places a maximum limit of 4.4% for spending growth, based on the growth of the economy. The Legislature’s budget increase currently comes in at 3.8% for state funds, well under that limit. Compared to the average for the last 16 years, this is a significant decrease in spending growth.
If the Legislature continues with a firm limit on spending growth as they make final appropriations, they will be taking a substantial step toward correcting years of uncontrolled spending.
Supply and Demand
- The Montana Environmental Information Center claimed in an article that there is “no economic backing” to the proposition that relaxing land use regulations will promote more affordable housing.
Our Take: This claim is 100% false. Numerous studies over the last 20 years demonstrate that the “zoning and other land use controls play the dominant role in making housing expensive.” Based on what the evidence shows us, one of the best things policymakers could do to promote affordable housing would be to cut down on unnecessary regulations and red tape.
- Our latest Lee newspapers column outlines the inherent problem with viewing government as the only solution to the problems facing our state. Not only is it impossible for government to solve every problem, entrepreneurs can deliver solutions better and cheaper than bureaucrats ever could! Governments should focus on reducing barriers for innovators, disruptors and entrepreneurs to do what they do best and solve society’s big problems.