Senate approves Nesbitt broadband expansion

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at expanding broadband access after related legislation was recently vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt, the bill’s sponsor, said his legislation would help close the digital gap among areas of the state when it comes to technological advancement and broadband investments.

“Data has shown us that nearly half a million residents don’t have reliable internet service or any internet service at all,” said Nesbitt, R-Lawton. “The internet is becoming a necessity just to get by in your day-to day business. Some places, like the state’s unemployment insurance agency, for example, conduct most of their business online, and accessing the information you need requires a quality internet connection.”

Senate Bill 46 would promote investment in broadband equipment with the hope of bringing more high-speed internet infrastructure and service to underserved areas of the state. The legislation aims to prompt investors to upgrade their equipment and expand services to areas that currently do not offer high-speed internet.

“The pandemic has really highlighted the need to address lack of broadband,” Nesbitt said. “For the last year, thousands of families, particularly in rural areas, were forced to rely on inconsistent internet service — and at times even no internet service — for their children’s schooling or to be able to do their jobs remotely. People simply did not have the access to reliable internet that they needed.”

Gov. Whitmer recently vetoed a related bill originating in the House of Representatives. Nesbitt pointed to the governor’s veto as a continued display of how out of touch she is with those in rural communities throughout the state.

“Her reasoning for vetoing the legislation was because the speeds in the bill weren’t high enough,” Nesbitt said. “Telling people still using dial-up or those with no internet access at all that standard broadband speeds are just not good enough and they can continue going without until she is appeased is insulting.”

The governor has publicly stated that, in part, her reason for vetoing the legislation was because it included speeds that weren’t “triple digit speeds” like many in the state are accustomed to.

“Not everyone is able to enjoy triple digit download speeds like she has access to in her community. Deciding to forgo a sensible solution that would have begun working to serve residents with slow or no service because it wouldn’t be good enough for people in her community is disappointing,” Nesbitt said. “But since she is unwilling to compromise, we are passing a bill with enhanced speed requirements to try and expedite a solution for Michigan residents.”

The updated legislation will now go to the Michigan House of Representatives for further consideration.

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