State Rep. Brad Paquette, of Niles, this week supported a pair of proposals working to expand effective broadband services – including high-speed internet technology – to more areas in Southwest Michigan and across the state.
The plans maintain protections for private property rights, but do not increase the burden on taxpayers.
“Easy access to high-speed internet is simply a staple of being competitive in the 21st century,” Paquette said. “Job providers depend on this technology to extend their business and influence across the globe. There are many examples showing how increased broadband service equates to economic growth, so I’m pleased to support a plan that provides an opportunity for access.”
House Bill 4266, proposed by state Rep. Triston Cole of Mancelona, streamlines the ability for electric cooperatives to build and expand broadband networks on existing infrastructure and within existing easements. Many cooperatives in Southwest Michigan already have infrastructure in place to assist unserved areas.
The plan protects against legal issues other states have faced as they have tried to employ similar strategies. Because of the potential for litigation, progress has been slowed as cooperatives decide whether to risk building broadband infrastructure or update easements. The proposals won’t use taxpayer funds to incentivize or increase expansion opportunities, while also protecting the property rights of surrounding landowners, who could still bring action against a cooperative regarding an easement.
The plan, along with corresponding legislation dealing with pole attachments – HB 5266 – moves to the Senate for consideration.