State Legistature Threatens to Derail Us

Update October 20: We have heard that the bill is off the table for now. It is unlikely to be completely dead, but does mean there is not a hearing next Tuesday.

A new bill in the state house is trying to limit Holland’s ability to provide fiber internet service.

Specifically, it seeks to prevent cities from using “any federal, state, or local funds or loans to pay for the cost of providing qualified Internet service.”

The bill was introduced by Michele Hoitenga of Manton who believes government shouldn’t compete with private ISPs, telling Michigan Radio “I feel strongly that this needs to either be stopped or it needs to, at least at the very minimum, go to the vote of the people within the area.”

Rep. Hoitenga is obviously unaware of a couple key facts:

1. Taxpayers are not paying for BPW’s project.

All of the money for Holland BPW’s project comes from their operating budget. No tax money is used. Also, the BPW runs their broadband services sustainably, reinvesting profits into the network. They have been providing broadband services to businesses for 25 years.

Maybe Holland would want to use tax money somewhere in the future (maybe to provide free access to low-income residents for example).

2. Current providers cannot offer gigabit speeds at affordable prices (if at all)

Rep. Hoitenga seems to believe we have 37 ISPs serving the City. Anyone who lives here knows we effectively have two: Comcast and AT&T. Neither provide gigabit fiber to residents, and where they can offer fiber, it is not affordable. BPW’s gigabit fiber will be 10x faster than these providers at a lower price. Plus, BPW is building an open-access system that other ISPs can use.

We know what Holland residents and businesses are clamoring for BPW to provide better service. We see that in the signups downtown, and in the amount of interest from the rest of the area.

We need your help

This bill threatens to derail Holland’s project, and will hurt other Michigan cities. BPW staff members met with Rep. Hoitenga last week, and plan to testify before the committee, which could be next week.

If you are interested in helping, reach out to state representatives and senators. Give them the facts and let them know that this bill is bad for broadband. Need some facts? Here are a few quick ones:

  1. The Holland BPW has operated a broadband business for twenty-five years, serving nearly 250 businesses with access to superior bandwidth and reliability
  2. The enterprise is providing positive net revenue to support growth and reinvestment in infrastructure
  3. No tax dollars are used to support the broadband enterprise
  4. Holland has created an open access system, which promotes competition through multiple content provider partners
  5. Residents and businesses in Holland are demanding higher speeds and more reliability than the private sector alone currently provides
  6. As a not for profit entity, organizations like the Holland BPW are well positioned to build out world-class, future-proof fiber infrastructure that reduces duplication of infrastructure while encouraging private companies to use the fiber to offer products and services

Other coverage that goes more in-depth:

Ars Technica - Republican fight against municipal broadband heats up in Michigan

DSLReports - Michigan Introduces New, Awful Bill to Ban Community Broadband

Community Networks - Anti-Muni Bill In Michigan Pulls No Punches

Michigan Radio - Bill would bar Michigan communities from using public money for internet infrastrucure

Techdirt - Michigan Lawmaker Doesn’t Understand Her Own Bill Hamstringing Broadband Competition

International Business Times - Telecom Lobbyists Fund Lawmaker Who Sponsors Bill To Ban Municipal Broadband

Stop the Cap! - Mich. Lawmaker Seeks Ban on All Community Broadband Networks

Cadillac News - Hoitenga broadband bill won’t proceed

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