Boosting rural internet

Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland, right, listens as DayStarr Communications President Collin Rose describes the function of equipment in the company’s server room at its Owosso facility.

OWOSSO — Congressman John Moolenaar Monday said he plans to introduce legislation in Congress aimed at improving rural broadband internet access for the many people who are working or studying at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moolenaar said he plans, this week, to offer legislation (the BOOST Act) that would — among other things — provide a $300 tax credit for rural residents to purchase mobile hotspots in an effort to improve internet connectivity and reliability.

“As I travel around the 15 counties (of the district), I hear a lot that in the low density areas it’s more challenging,” the Midland Republican said. “I developed an interim phase to make it easier. I came up with a tax credit to help on the consumer side.”

Moolenaar said the credit would expire in five years.

“This is not a longer-term solution, but it moves the ball forward,” he said. “The concern I have is some people in rural areas, it could be 10 years (before they have options).”

Moolenaar said he was slated to return to Washington, D.C., today and would move ahead with finding co-sponsors for the bill. He wasn’t sure if it would end up as a standalone piece or be included in tax or infrastructure bills.

Moolenaar discussed the needs and conflicts involved with expanding broadband capabilities for Michigan residents with DayStarr Communications President Collin Rose during a tour of the DayStarr facility in Owosso.

Rose outlined his company’s history for Moolenaar, who represents Shiawassee County. Rose explained how he and his father-in-law Ron DeHaas started an internet/pornography monitoring firm together (Covenant Eyes). Later as the company expanded, DayStarr split off to provide internet service while Covenant Eyes continued with its primary mission.

Rose said DayStarr, laid its first fiber optic cables in 2006 and now has more than 3,000 customers in (mostly) central Shiawassee County.

Rose told Moolenaar expanding into rural areas often isn’t cost effective for broadband companies for a variety of reasons, including fees to connect to poles, the cost of laying new fiber lines, the lack of customer saturation and other issues.

Moolenaar also visited the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce to discuss the legislation.

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