Sara Swanson

Donna Lasinski updates residents on Broadband bills at coffee hour

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Manchester’s State Representative, Donna Lasinski, made a stop in Manchester Saturday morning to hold a coffee hour in the Village Room. To a packed room, she gave an update on the bipartisan auto insurance reform on which she is working and discussed the status of the two broadband bills in the house. She answered questions from the audience about Washtenaw County’s Proposal 1, for which she will reluctantly vote because she feels the mental health funding is desperately needed. She also discussed her position on transmitting electrical meters (she supports the right of property owners to opt out), her position on whether adding solar panels to your house should make your property tax assessment go up which is no, and her position on the Enbridge Pipeline, Line 5 running through the straights–she believes that it needs to be shut down. She also stayed after the coffee hour and answered questions one on one.

Of specific concern to the Manchester area was the discussion of broadband bills. Lasinski addressed House Bill 5099, recently introduced by the chair of the communications committee, Rep. Michelle Hoitenga. This bill would prevent local governments from using local, state or federal funding to pay for high-speed internet unless they enter into an agreement with a private company to provide the internet service. If this bill became law, it would hinder the progress area townships have made toward installing broadband with the plan of serving as their own internet providers. This may be the only choice for areas where broadband providers don’t find it profitable to serve. At the coffee hour, Lasinski reported that she had met with Rep. Hoitenga at length and Hoitenga’s staff stated that Hoitenga had received a lot pushback from communities in the process and working toward bringing broadband to their communities themselves. Lasinski reported that she was cautiously optimistic that the bill was being withdrawn.

Rep. Lasinski, who serves on the communications committee is the author of House Bill 4162, which would allow townships to use special assessment districts to fund broadband infrastructure projects, thereby treating broadband lines like water lines or roads. Special assessment districts would allow areas smaller than a township to build and fund their own broadband. Although she believed her bill had been stalled, she says that the conversation created by Bill 5099, may be helping to move her bill along.

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