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If we build it, they will come

“If you build it, they will come.” I’m not talking about a baseball field in Iowa. I’m talking about building out broadband networks in rural communities throughout Michigan.

As the Republican Leader of the Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee, my top priority for this term is bringing access to high-speed internet to our community. I live right off a major road, only a few miles from I94. In today’s world, it’s unfathomable that there isn’t a single provider willing to provide service to my home. The cost and government red tape are holding them back, and as a policymaker, I find that completely unacceptable.

It’s past time to cut red tape, incentivize private investment, and bring high-speed internet to our rural communities. Last term, I was proud to co-sponsor legislation that would have accomplished these goals. The bills passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support but were unfortunately vetoed by the Governor. Despite facing a veto, I never gave up on this fight. I’ve gone back to the drawing board, and in the coming weeks, I will introduce new legislation to bring internet access to rural communities and close the digital divide.

The digital divide is very real. Parents who had to drive their kids to a fast-food restaurant’s parking lot so they could do homework know it all too well. Realtors, whose first question they receive is, “Does the property have internet?” - know it. Economic developers who pitch our community as an attractive investment opportunity only to be rejected for urban areas also recognize the growing divide. To compete in the 21st century, our communities need access to the internet. Without it, rural areas face a downward spiral of population decline and reduced economic activity. This is a death spiral that we can’t let happen.

The potential for progress is immense. With high-speed internet, students in rural school districts can access the same educational resources as their counterparts in urban areas, giving them the tools to compete in the global economy. Small businesses can reach customers and markets around the world, creating new jobs and fueling economic growth. And families in remote areas can access telemedicine services, improving their health and well-being.

I’m biased, but Southwest Michigan is the most beautiful area of our state. I have absolutely no doubt that “if we build it, they will come.” Our community and many other rural towns will grow, thrive, and prosper.

If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1799. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

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