By AUDREY L. BARNEY
Capital News Service
LANSING — “The fast lane to the future is now open,” said Gov. John Engler after signing three bills designed to speed up the high-speed Internet deployment.
Engler hopes that accelerated construction of new broadband transmission lines and equipment will begin now that the bills are laws. He said the new construction will create jobs and help MichiganÕs economy recover from recession.
Michigan is the first state in the nation to take the pioneering steps to tear down barriers and provide incentives for the expansion of broadband. Experts estimate the plan will create an additional 500,000 jobs over the next decade and expand economic output by $440 billion.
Sen. Leon Stille, R-Spring Lake, one of the sponsors of the bills, expects there will be much competition among the major cable companies and Internet providers, as well as new companies springing up to get a piece of the action.
“I suspect they will be battling tooth and nail to get their share, but there should be plenty of business to go around,” the West Michigan lawmaker said.
The MI Hi-Speed Internet Plan aims to tear down the barriers to broadband with measures to:
– Level the playing field with a statewide right-of-way authority and shield ratepayers from potential increases.
– Create tax incentives to encourage investment in new broadband infrastructure.
– Establish a broadband finance authority that pools private investment to lower the cost of production equipment in projects that will be owned and operated by the private sector.
For the average citizen, the new law means that high-speed Internet cable access will become available in every nook and cranny in the state of Michigan by 2006.
According to a survey conducted for Cyber-state.org, a nonprofit information-technology advocacy group, one in four Michigan Ñ 24 percent — residents have high-speed access to the Web at home or at work.
In its third statewide technology survey, Cyber-state.org found the share of Michigan residents who have ever accessed the Internet has increased from 54 percent in 1999/2000 to 63 percent in 2001.
The new law was designed to give Michigan citizens the option and encourage them to use high-speed Internet access.
“Everyone from here to the Upper Peninsula will have the potential of communicating through Internet access with anyone in the state or around the world,” Stille said.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By AUDREY L. BARNEY