Legislator proud of increased broadband efforts, drone plans
State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, chair of the House Communications and Technology Committee, today stressed the importance of key issues addressed during the first six months of the year that improve the way of living for Michiganders.
Hoitenga, of Manton, has consistently fought for improved broadband for residents across the state and high-speed internet capability in underserved or unserved areas. Her continued commitment gives rural portions of Michigan a better chance to attract businesses, jobs and residents while sustaining a healthy local economy.
“It’s simply essential in today’s growing, technological world,” Hoitenga said of expanded, high-quality internet access. “The more that gap is widening between city and rural in terms of broadband, the more our rural communities will continue to be left behind. It’s a priority for me to not allow that to happen.”
Hoitenga co-sponsored legislation signed into law in April capping certain permitting costs for county rights-of-way work. House Bill 5097, which had passed through committee and is now Public Act 97 of 2018, helps to streamline future broadband expansion projects while eliminating unnecessary government red tape.
In May, Hoitenga held a hearing for House Bill 5670, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Whiteford of Casco Township. The proposal establishes a concrete broadband investment plan â€“ including a development fund within the state treasury and a team tasked with identifying areas in Michigan that are unserved or underserved and develop policies to award grants.
“It’s important to discuss ideas and drive discussion so we can get things done for the people of Michigan,” said Hoitenga. “The problem we run into is many rural areas are deemed to be ‘low-density,’ with too few people for a provider to see the worth in extending coverage. I want to eliminate that notion and meet this problem head-on through open dialogue. We aren’t there yet, but I enjoyed the back and forth relating to this issue with opinions from true experts. It shows we, as a committee, understand the magnitude of what rural Michigan is facing.”
Hoitenga also sponsored legislation and provided input for the committee on new state laws for drones.
One plan makes illegal activity carried out with the use of a drone, such as dropping contraband, weapons, cell phones or other items onto correctional facility property for inmates, the same as an individual breaking the law without unmanned aircraft as an aid. Resources for acceptable use at a state level are notably thin, and Hoitenga’s other proposal within the legislative package aims to expand and centralize available information on the growing industry. The bill tasks the existing Michigan Aeronautics Commission with providing education to various departments, the public, law enforcement and other entities.
The two bills, along with other drone proposals, advanced on an overwhelming House vote in March and currently are under consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.
“This industry has taken off rapidly and government has been slow to react in evaluating its role,” Hoitenga said. “The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that as many as 7 million drones could be active nationwide by 2020. As technology continues to leap forward, we must look at measures that lead to acceptable use while protecting state and public safety interests.”