Upper Peninsula legislator works to ensure needed technological infrastructure
State Rep. Beau LaFave has co-sponsored introduced legislation exploring ways to expand broadband into areas of need.
Within House Bill 5670, a seven-member board made up of governor-appointed individuals representing townships, counties and telecommunication providers, will identify barriers that deter companies from expanding into underserved areas of Michigan.
“This group’s purpose will be to prioritize our demand for broadband in rural areas and recommend ways for the legislature to proceed,” LaFave said. “We need to identify specific strategies and policies that incentivize businesses to expand service. What better way to do that than by connecting our communities with our providers to make sure this gets done as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Members of the board will serve for four years. The proposal, which has been referred to the House Committee on Communications and Technology, also sets up a broadband development fund within the state treasury that can provide a vehicle for infrastructural gains.
LaFave also recently joined his colleagues in the Michigan House to advance House Bill 5097, streamlining broadband expansion work and cutting government red tape.
County road commissions hold jurisdiction in right-of-way cases and often require permits, inspections and project reviews due to the close proximity of other lines and mains beneath the ground. Right-of-way permit requirements vary widely from county to county, creating a time-consuming process for telecommunication and video service providers that serve large areas of the state.
The bill, which moved to the Senate for consideration, caps fees that can be charged by commissions in an effort to speed up the preliminary stages of relocating or installing lines. Providers will still be required to obtain basic work permits in public right-of-ways.
“I frequently field questions from people in the U.P. on when they will be getting the high-speed internet that a large portion of the state is already enjoying,” said LaFave, of Iron Mountain. “This capability is not a luxury. It’s a needed asset in today’s world. It helps businesses operate at a higher efficiency, creating jobs and helping areas flourish. We need to accelerate this advancement so our region can attract prospective businesses and residents.”