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    The Michigan legislature has not seen a great deal of action in the broadband policy arena. There have been, however, two major bills introduced in the past year that could have important affects Michigan's broadband policy.

    . The first bill is House Bill No. 4755. It is dated April 1, 2009. The bill was introduced by Representative Jackson and referred to the Committee on Energy and Technology. The goal of the bill is to give tax credits to companies that invest in broadband infrastructure for underserved areas of the state. This means that telecommunication companies that lay new broadband pipes or deliver services to new or underserved areas would get tax breaks under this bill. As I have mentioned earlier this type of government action is similar to events in the early part of the 20th century when the technology at hand was telephone lines. Then, as it is today, we realize the importance of serving rural areas with fast, reliable communication. The only difference is that today's connection uses a computer rather than a phone. Another part of this bill that is often overlooked in other broadband legislation is the definition of "broadband." H.B. 4755 defines broadband as "not less than 5 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabit per second upstream." This creates a situation where the new services will be faster than more conservative broadband definitions. This allows for connections that are at or above the average speed consumers are getting across the country from other service providers, which is important for creating favorable conditions for online growth. Another important section of the bill is the attention given to underserved areas in Metropolitan locations. These areas must have at least 30% of the median family income but not more than 70%. This seems to target middle class families in metropolitan areas who most likely have access to a computer to begin with, but may not have access to affordable broadband service.

    The other bill of note is House Bill 5390. It was introduced September 17, 2009, by Representative Cushingberry. It was referred to the Committee on Tax Policy. The goal of the bill is to give a 7% tax credit on eligible expenditures for companies that invest in broadband infrastructure that has the carrying capacity of 200 kilobits per second in both directions. This bill also targets rail companies investing in infrastructure. The broadband portions of this bill, specifically the speed requirement, are lackluster. Two-hundred kilobits per second equates to first generation "broadband" speeds. The bill mentioned above requires speeds 25 times faster. Basic broadband that an end user would receive from a DSL provider is usually between 768 kilobits per second to 1.5 megabits per second (downstream). The goal of spurring investment in broadband infrastructure is admirable, but the requirements for the tax credit are far too low for 21st century broadband.

    These two bills are important first steps to securing a strong foundation for Michigan's broadband infrastructure. The focus must be on the future, however, as speed must increase to keep up with demand and new technology. This is done by creating high standards for telecommunication companies from the start.

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    Policy Fellow: Marie Hallberg

    Marie Hallberg is the commerce & regulation correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network and a first-year student at Michigan State University. Currently, she is a no preference major, but is interested in either a teaching or communications degree. Marie is very excited to be attending MSU and anxious to explore the opportunities that are available to her. Marie is originally from Illinois and enjoys hanging out with her family and friends, reading, and being in band. Her career aspirations include a job focused on serving and working with people, possibly in the guest service area. She is very interested in using her experience on the Michigan Policy Network to help better her understanding of the Michigan government and how its policies ultimately affect the citizens of Michigan.