Rep. Cole plan to expand rural broadband

A plan from state Rep. Triston Cole that works to expand effective broadband services to more Michigan residents was unanimously advanced recently by the House Communications and Technology Committee.

House Bill 4266 codifies legal protections for Michigan electric cooperatives to build and expand broadband networks on existing infrastructure and within existing easements. Many cooperatives already have infrastructure in place and will be able to better reach unserved areas.

“Broadband expansion to rural areas is critical for the growth of our state. It helps provide all of Michigan with opportunities to attract businesses and residents, instead of just concentrated areas,” said Cole, of Mancelona. “Unfortunately, service providers don’t consider rural areas to be cost-friendly when expanding infrastructure, so we need to be flexible within our laws to get increased broadband to people who depend on it within this technological age.”

Cole’s proposal 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 stunted as cooperatives decide whether to risk building broadband infrastructure or update easements.

HB 4266 and corresponding legislation dealing with pole attachments now move to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

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