COMMUNICATION: Broadband Demand – Bill would provide loans for high-speed Internet access

WASHINGTON D.C. – Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate could help bring access to high-speed digital technology to northern Michigan.

A bill introduced in the House by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, would provide for long-term, low-interest loans to companies, encouraging them to develop the infrastructure for high-speed Internet access.

“As the demand for high-speed Internet grows, numerous companies are responding in areas of dense population. While urban America is quickly gaining high-speed access, rural America is–once again–left behind,” Stupak said.

Stupak likened the bill to the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s, which helped bring electricity to the rural United States.

Bob Meissner, press secretary for Stupak, said that action needs to be taken so rural areas aren’t left behind.

“In any type of national network, whether it’s electricity or telephone, your biggest bang for the buck is people living 20 feet from one another. It’s the same situation when it comes to broadband; you have to allow some kind of mechanism like low-interest loans that encourages this development.”

The bill as proposed does not specify any specific type of infrastructure, such as fiber optic lines or satellite links. It’s important to keep the loans company-neutral and technology-neutral, so that companies can employ the technology best suited for that area, Stupak said.

Meissner believes that everyone has a right to high-speed technology no matter where they live, and this proposal would help them do that.

“There’s no reason that a successful public relations person or architect or attorney can’t take advantage of the quality of life northern Michigan has to offer and run a successful program or business.”

The legislation, which calls for $3 billion over five fiscal years, is currently in the House Agriculture Committee. It has a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. BIZNEWS