Michigan is the latest state to try and pass a law supported by (and likely written by) incumbent ISPs that tries to prevent communities from building their own broadband networks. Towns and cities for years have been forced to consider building their own broadband networks, thanks to a lack of competition in the broadband sector. This lack of competition usually results in regional duopolies doing the bare minimum to improve service in these markets, forcing towns and cities to get creative if they actually want to receive faster speeds at more reasonable prices.If large ISPs really wanted to stop this from happening, they could improve service and lower rates. But more often than not, it’s much easier to just pay state lawmakers to introduce awful, protectionist bills banning towns and cities from building their own networks, or in many instances even partnering with private companies like Google to improve local connectivity.Michigan Freshman Representative Michele Hoitenga is the latest to rubber stamp the whims of broadband duopolies, and has introduced HB 5099, a new bill that would make it difficult if not impossible for Michigan towns and cities to build or improve local broadband networks, even in instances where local ISPs refuse to. The bill proclaims that local communities cannot use federal, state, or even their own voter-approved funds to invest in even the slowest Internet infrastructure.And while it doesn’t ban public/private partnerships outright, it does its best to discourage them, notes the folks at Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has been fighting such ISP-written protectionist drivel for years.”(An) exception allows local communities to engage in public-private partnerships, but the bill’s ambiguous language is likely to discourage local communities from pursuing such partnerships,” the group notes. “Rather than put themselves at risk of running afoul of the law, prudent community leaders would probably choose to avoid pursuing any publicly owned infrastructure initiatives.”The bill is expected to hamper existing municipal broadband projects in the state in places like Sebewaing, Holland and Lyndon Township. In Lyndon Township, locals frustrated with sub-standard broadband recently voted overwhelmingly to approve funding and construction of a fiber network that will obliterate the slow, expensive service currently only partially available in the region. These bills help large ISPs disregard the will of the public, something that often annoys Republicans and Democrats alike (most municipal broadband networks are built in Conservative areas).
Michigan Introduces New, Awful Bill to Ban Community Broadband