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Senate considers altered broadband provisions

Senators could vote Friday on "stimulus" package amendments that'd reduce planned funding for broadband deployment and alter tax cuts offered for Internet access.

As the Senate continues to hammer out the details of its massive, so-called "stimulus" package, it may alter the provisions directed at broadband deployment.

A bipartisan group of at least 15 legislators is working to trim the legislation by about $107 billion and may cut $1.5 billion of the bill's broadband funding, The New York Times reported. The Senate version of the bill initially called for $9 billion to fund broadband deployment.

The Senate--which may complete voting on the bill Friday--will also consider a revised amendment from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) to provide tax credits for companies to deploy broadband services in rural and unserved areas.

The senator's amendment would provide a 30 percent tax credit for companies to provide current-generation broadband in rural or "unserved" areas, as well as a 40 percent tax credit for companies providing next-generation broadband.

Current-generation broadband would be defined as 5 megabits per second or better, while next-generation broadband would be defined as at least 100Mbps. The amendment also provides a 40 percent tax credit for wireless broadband offered at 6Mbps or better and a 30 percent tax credit for wireless broadband at a speed of at least 3Mbps.

Rockefeller initially proposed smaller tax credits but had suggested extending them to "underserved" regions, as well as rural and "unserved" areas. He filed the changed amendment late Thursday night, according to an aide for the senator.

Rockefeller offered the amendment, the aide said, to maximize the tax credits for communities that need broadband services the most.

After the Senate votes on the nearly trillion-dollar package, the bill will have to be reconciled with the House version before it can be sent to the president to become law. The House bill includes $6 billion for broadband funding. Democratic leaders in Congress have said they intend to get the bill to Barack Obama's desk before they leave for a week-long recess on February 16.