O’Malley supports broadband legislation. 

January 23, 2020

Rep. Jack O’Malley

O’Malley supports broadband legislation. 

LANSING — State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R, Lake Ann) this week supported a pair of proposals working to expand effective broadband services to more areas across Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee and Mason counties.

House Bill 4266, proposed by state Rep. Triston Cole of Mancelona, 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.

“We have rural areas and small communities across northern Michigan within gaps in broadband service and areas that are not able to receive the latest in high-speed internet,” O’Malley said after the House approved the plan. “This is a critical concern. It slows progress and makes it more difficult for people to live and work in these areas in today’s technological age.”

Michigan electric cooperatives have history dating back as far as the Rural Electrification Administration created in 1935. At that time, many Americans – notably rural residents – did not have access to electricity. Cooperative expansion in the 1930s and 40s led to electricity becoming more widely available and now these entities are hoping for the same process to unfold with broadband, using their existing infrastructure.

HB 4266 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.

The plan, along with corresponding legislation dealing with pole attachments – HB 5266 – advance to the Senate for consideration.

O’Malley represents the 101st House district, which includes Mason, Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties. 

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