LANSING — “The fast lane to the future is now open,” said Gov. John Engler recently when signing three bills designed to advance 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 Michigan’s 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, he said. He is among officials who 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 sponsor 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,” Stille said.
Engler 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 is said to mean that high-speed Internet cable access will become available even along the state’s rural lanes by 2006.
According to a survey conducted for Cyber-state.org, a nonprofit information-technology advocacy group, 24 percent of Michigan residents now 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.