Michigan Lawmaker Withdraws Bill To Restrict Muni-Broadband

A state lawmaker in Michigan has pulled a controversial bill that would have hindered local towns from building their own broadband networks.

House of Representatives member Michele Hoitenga, a Republican, reportedly did not state why she withdrew the measure, which would have prohibited towns and cities from using any public funds to create new broadband networks. The bill would not have totally blocked muni-networks, because it contained a provision allowing local governments to partner with broadband service providers in some circumstances.

Earlier this month, Hoitenga said on Twitter that the bill would be amended. "This bill was presented to get the much needed conversation going," she said in a tweet. She added that she's "a big proponent" of broadband expansion.



The advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance had said earlier that the measure would probably cause local community leaders to avoid pursuing publicly owned muni-broadband projects. Michigan already imposes obstacles to muni-broadband, including a requirement that local towns issue requests for proposals. The towns can only move forward with investments if there are fewer than three bids, according to Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Self Reliance's Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

Around 20 states have laws that limit local towns and cities from creating their own muni-broadband networks. Last year, a federal appellate court reversed a Federal Communications Commission order aimed at encouraging muni-broadband. The court ruled that the FCC lacked authority for its order, which would have invalidated state laws thwarting muni-broadband networks.

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