Opportunities for rural broadband expansion

Proposals from state Rep. Triston Cole working to expand effective broadband services to more Michigan residents were overwhelmingly advanced this week by the Michigan House.

House Bill 4266 codifies legal protections for state 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.

“This plan goes beyond just the concentrated areas and works to get needed technology like high-speed internet to unserved areas and our rural communities,” said Cole, of Mancelona. “Service providers traditionally don’t consider rural areas to be cost-friendly when expanding infrastructure. The term we often hear with the reasoning not to expand into these areas is ‘low-density.’ But this technology helps attract business, increases tools for our children to learn and creates growth. We need to pursue measures that can get it into the hands of more people and this legislation will do that.”

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 – HB 5266 – advance to the Senate for consideration.

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