Michigan Broadband Services Powers New Tech Incubator in Traverse City

Tech entrepreneurs in the Traverse City area have a new resource to help them get their businesses off the ground. A new incubator named 20 Fathoms opened its office this week with the help of fiber-optic connectivity provided by Michigan Broadband Services. The collaboration shows the opportunities that exist in communities that are struggling to find reliable high-speed services. (Article)

Legislators Make the Right 911 Call

Legislators Make the Right 911 Call

"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made." (John Godfrey Saxe)

As it turns out, the Michigan State Capitol is currently populated by some talented sausage makers. Faced with a proposal loaded with pork, state legislators turned out a lean, well-made bill.

When Senate Bill 400 (SB 400) was introduced in May 2017, it contained up to $33 million in tax increases and expanded the size of state government by turning a technical advisory committee into a new regulatory agency (among other ill-conceived proposals). The rationale for such overreach was a funding "crisis" that demanded immediate legislative action. However, as legislators learned by digging into the details, the need for additional funding was real but far less than being proposed.

Without getting too far into the weeds, as Michigan's counties transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911) networks, more money is needed to pay for the increased capabilities these systems provide to public safety agencies. The funding source counties had been relying on no longer generated enough money to cover the costs because it was created well before NG911 was developed. Left unaddressed, funds would have run out sometime in 2018. It was this situation that gave rise to the original version of SB 400.

SB 400 was introduced with $17 million more in surcharge increases than was necessary to address the NG911 funding need. It also contained expansive new regulatory powers and the potential for legal system-based fishing expeditions to replace established complaint procedures.

Legislators took this bloated bill and gradually trimmed off the fat. They demanded answers to questions like "How much does it actually cost to operate a NG911 system?" and "What's wrong with the current regulatory structure?" to create a more focused bill. At the end of the process, SB 400 became a bill that addressed actual problems without becoming a Christmas Tree (Christmas sausage?) for every government entity that wanted to boost their budgets. Legislators also found a way to provide new revenues for NG911 while at the same time lowering total surcharges on many consumers' monthly bills.

That's an impressive accomplishment and one that has us craving bratwurst.

The Politics of Broadband

The Politics of Broadband

Broadband providers face so many government-imposed obstacles to maximizing their investments that each dollar they do spend on “better broadband” has been shrunk considerably. Local permit fees, state property taxes and federal regulations combine to make it much more expensive for broadband providers to put a business plan together for “better broadband” investments.

Next to Taxpayers, Counties are Biggest Losers under 911 Funding Proposal

Next to Taxpayers, Counties are Biggest Losers under 911 Funding Proposal

It may seem counter-intuitive to call Michigan’s counties “losers” when they would theoretically receive just under $1 million of increased 911 funding under a tax increase proposal put forward by Michigan’s State 911 Committee (SNC). Sometimes, however, looking a gift horse in the mouth can reveal unexpected results.

Pokemon Go Exposes Zeal to Regulate Every Aspect of Our Digital Lives

Pokemon Go Exposes Zeal to Regulate Every Aspect of Our Digital Lives

While there have been concerns about Pokemon characters being located in inappropriate places like the National Holocaust Museum and the Vietnam War Memorial, as well as numerous injuries to players who lost track of their surroundings, the reaction from some members of Congress and so-called public interest groups exposes a regulatory zeal that should be troubling to consumers and innovators.