LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced a $12.7 million initiative aimed at increasing broadband internet access statewide.
The governor made the announcement Thursday at the North American International Cyber Summit.
“In today’s society, the fastest way to create an even playing field for all is access to high-speed internet,” said Gov. Whitmer. “These broadband internet projects, along with additional infrastructure initiatives we are undertaking, will provide underserved communities in Michigan with high-speed internet service. This critical service is no longer a luxury but is a necessity that allows every Michigander to get a quality education and compete in the global economy.”
Residents who lack access to broadband or cannot afford a home broadband connection are unable to participate in telehealth, virtual learning, telework, civic engagement, and many other activities those who are connected are able to use every day.
About 1,243,339 Michigan households do not have a permanent fixed broadband connection at home resulting in $1.8B to $2.7B in potential economic benefit left unrealized among disconnected households, according to the governor's office.
The broadband projects announced today were selected through the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program. The $12.7 million in awards are estimated to generate between $15.7 and $23.1 million in annual economic benefits to consumers. These projects will extend access to over 10,900 households, businesses, and community anchor institutions (CAI) in Michigan. All projects have committed to closing the internet access divide and provide digital literacy training materials to residents and businesses in their proposed service area, and work with local CAIs and foundations to host events to promote e-learning, job, and workforce training.
Recommendations for the second round of CMIC grant awards will be announced this month, providing another $5.3 million towards further infrastructure expansion across the state. Last week, Gov. Whitmer signed a budget that included an additional $14.3 million in grant funding for a third round of projects in 2021.
This announcement builds on the launch of the Connecting Michigan Taskforce (CMIT), with Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II helping to lead the efforts to strengthen and grow broadband infrastructure across Michigan. The Connecting Michigan Taskforce will advise and assist in improving coordination among stakeholders in addressing broadband and technology access and adoption issues in the state.
“The internet access divide is real and must be addressed to provide opportunity for all Michiganders to thrive,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist. “This taskforce will provide a coordinated state of Michigan approach to increasing broadband access and adoption in Michigan and finding the resources that are vital to providing affordable broadband access to households and businesses statewide.”
Access to broadband and high-speed internet is vital to people’s ability to work, learn and carry out business. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more imperative than ever and building and strengthening broadband infrastructure throughout Michigan will be a driver of economic recovery efforts statewide. To support that effort, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has partnered with Connected Nation Michigan (CNMI) to facilitate the Connecting Michigan Taskforce and improve the access, adoption, and use of broadband and technology across Michigan, by:
- Coordinating with local, regional, and state agencies as well as the private sector to increase broadband access and adoption in Michigan;
- Recommending policy changes to improve broadband access and adoption in the state;
- Identifying funding sources and opportunities to encourage investors to provide affordable broadband access to households and businesses statewide; and
- Monitoring federal broadband-related activities for policies and funding opportunities that will impact broadband in Michigan.
The taskforce is comprised of members that represent state of Michigan agencies or units that relate closely to broadband, including MEDC, Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Michigan Public Service, Michigan Infrastructure Council and the Library of Michigan.
Combined, the CMIC Broadband grants and the Connecting Michigan Task Force will help more Michigan residents gain access to, and adoption of broadband and the economic benefits it will provide.