In Michigan ‘can you hear me now?’
I figure Pete must have been smiling.
Wednesday Gov. Rick Snyder was in Escanaba promoting the expansion of broadband internet access to all corners of rural Michigan.
Sometimes though the interesting aspect of news isn’t what actually is said – instead it lies with what wasn’t said.
In this instance what wasn’t said is that “why then, for years now, have some state legislators and local government officials been trying to promote internet access as if ‘of course, everyone has internet access in Michigan?'”
I, and former State Rep. Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle understood that internet access wasn’t available everywhere, and for governments to say differently was a lie. Thus, during my term as president of the Michigan Press Association, Pettalia and I worked together to prevent any legislation moving through the Legislature that would move public notices from being published in state newspapers to instead, only internet sites.
The thing I most admire about Pettalia was that by taking that public position, it meant he had to “buck” some of his party leadership, who at the time were favoring the transfer. Yet Pettalia understood what local government that operates without full transparency might look like. He had seen the results of that in Presque Isle Township where he lived and as a result he joined with the Michigan Press Association in promoting full government transparency.
Some will say my position in this argument is personal and provincial – that I’m just trying just to protect a revenue source for my newspaper and my employees.
I would be foolish to say I wasn’t. Of course I want to protect a revenue stream.
But more importantly, I truly believe that government works best by being fully transparent. By having to publish public notices in newspapers, it minimizes the potential of important decisions being done in the dark by government bodies. I believe that more people will learn of a proposed government decision, or meeting, by reading it in the newspaper than they ever will by visiting a government website on a daily basis looking for that information.
And, as evidence by Snyder’s announcement, obviously there are a lot of people in rural Michigan who never have had access to broadband internet service.
“There are many regions of Michigan where internet is inaccessible or ineffective, and this plan works to make broadband internet available to Michigan residents in every corner of the state,” Snyder said.
If Pete were still here, it would have been as if the governor was preaching to the choir of he and I this week.
I hope the governor’s initiative can work. Broadband is needed everywhere.
Using Snyder’s statistics there remains more than 350,000 homes in Michigan that do not have access to high speed internet service.
Figuring an average of four people to a home, that means 1.4 million would never have known anything about what their local government was doing had the Legislature moved public notices to government websites years ago.
Yep, I bet Pete had to have been smiling.
Bill Speer can be reached at email@example.com or 989-354-3111, ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13