Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "michigan"
Allegan County, Michigan will soon receive a $30 million state grant to finalize the deployment of a new open access, carrier-neutral fiber network. The end result will bring overdue competition – and affordable multi-gigabit fiber access – to long neglected communities by 2025.
The $30 million award is part of Michigan’s $238 million Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program, made possible by 2021’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the resulting Capital Projects Fund.
123NET was chosen by Allegan County in late 2021 to help spearhead the Allegan County Broadband Project. The public-private partnership will bring access to more than 10,000 Allegan County residents either underserved or completely unserved by regional telecom giants, spread out across 1,000 square miles.
123NET and Allegan County had already committed to contributing $17.5 million for the construction of the network, with the county’s share coming from earlier ARPA awards.
"We are pleased to be selected as a recipient of the Michigan ROBIN Grant Funding. This recognition validates the hard work and dedication that both we and Allegan County have put into this Project,” Dan Irvin, CEO of 123NET said of the award. “We look forward to partnering with additional communities throughout Michigan in a combined effort to make this state the best connected on the planet."
Allegan County, Michigan is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to bring affordable fiber broadband to 12,000 unserved addresses across the county. The project will be in partnership with Southfield, Michigan based 123NET, made possible in large part due to more than $17.7 million in county American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“123NET has proposed a fiber to the home proposal to approximately 12,000 addresses of residents who don’t have access to 100 Mbps (Megabit per second) download fixed service,” Allegan County Broadband Project Manager Jill Dunham told ISLR.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced this week the latest cohort of states approved to receive money for broadband infrastructure from the American Rescue Plan’s $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Together, these states will use their funding to connect more than 91,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed Internet,” according to the Treasury’s press release.
Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia were the first states approved to receive CPF funds in June; followed by Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota in July; and Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Arkansas in August.
The latest tranche of CPF funds totals a little over $435 Million with Massachusetts approved for $145 million to fund new broadband infrastructure; $250.6 million for Michigan; and $40 million for Wisconsin.
A virtual press event was held on Thursday announcing the awards, led by Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to the President and American Rescue Plan Coordinator; Jacob Leibenluft, U.S. Treasury Chief Recovery Officer; U.S. Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan; and Chairwoman of Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission Rebecca Cameron Valcq.
In Massachusetts, the funds will be used for the Commonwealth’s Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program. The state estimates that will be enough to connect 16,000 households and businesses, which represents 27 percent of locations in the state that lack high-speed Internet access.
Sen. Markey spoke to the importance of high-speed Internet connectivity and how it touches nearly every aspect of day-to-day life:
In early August, the city of Holland, Michigan (pop. 33,000) voted to fund the construction of a citywide, open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. It’s the culmination of almost a decade of consideration, education, planning, and success, and builds on decades of work by the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) and city officials to build and maintain resilient essential infrastructure for its citizens. It also signals the work the community has done to listen to local residents, community anchor institutions, and the business owners in pushing for an investment that will benefit every premises equally and ensure fast, affordable Internet access is universally available for decades down the road.
In the Works
Holland has been formally exploring the need for better local connectivity since before 2016. It has been aided in this effort by the fact that the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW), which already provides electricity, water, and waste water services, has been maintaining a small institutional fiber network that it first installed in 1992 (see current coverage in map, right, current as of May 2019).
Along the shores of Lake Huron and across three rural counties in Michigan’s Thumb region, an electric cooperative is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of bringing fiber-to-the-home Internet service to its members.
Nearly 85 years after first delivering electricity to the region, Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) General Manager Dallas Braun announced the co-op had “started to lay the groundwork for a similar mission.”
“The mission,” he wrote in a recent edition of Michigan Country Lines, “is to provide much-needed fiber Internet service to those same sparsely populated areas by building a projected $80 million fiber network infrastructure that will be the superhighway of the Internet for future generations.”
The mandate came from members who saw ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet connectivity as a necessity of modern life much like the region’s rural farmers in the 1930s pined for electricity as they saw city residents enjoy a higher standard of electrified living.
It led to the creation of TEC Fiber – a new subsidiary of the TEC which currently serves 12,300 residents and businesses in Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties.
Foray into Broadband with an Air Advantage
With an unprecedented amount of federal funds to build broadband networks flowing into individual states, lawmakers in some states are doing the bidding of the big monopoly Internet Service Providers and potentially blowing a once-in-a-generation chance to invest in the locally-accountable infrastructure that offers the best chance to bridge the broadband gap for millions of families once and for all.
Two weeks ago we wrote about the anti-competition broadband legislation making its way through the State Legislatures in Illinois and New York as state lawmakers across the nation establish high-speed Internet grant programs.
That trend looks like it’s continuing in Michigan where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature recently reached a deal to pass a nearly $5 billion spending bill.
While the “Building Michigan Together Plan” is being “celebrated” by the governor’s office as a way to “grow the economy, create jobs, and benefit families in every region of the state,” the main supplemental spending bill, known as Senate Bill 565 (SB 565), may sink some hope community broadband advocates have for leveraging the windfall of federal funds the Great Lakes State is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the forthcoming funds in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA).
Protecting Incumbents from Competition
Countywide Internet access is no longer up in the air for Washtenaw County, Michigan residents. On September 15th, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to $15.5 million in funding to support the County Broadband Task Force’s efforts to achieve countywide broadband equity.
Washtenaw County (pop. 372,000) has long struggled with bringing broadband to its residents because incumbent providers wouldn’t invest in its more rural communities. However, with this new investment from the county and the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, the county promises the remaining gaps in broadband will be closed.
“This is a huge win for every resident of Washtenaw County,” Barbara Fuller, Chair of the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force said in a press release. “The Board of Commissioners tasked us with achieving countywide broadband equity more than 5 years ago, and here we are.”
Need better Internet access in your community but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re in the middle of a community broadband project but have hit a roadblock?
Be one of 100 broadband champions attending the Michigan Moonshot Broadband Summit at the one-day event on Tuesday, November 9th in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Michigan Moonshot Summit is a day-long conference focused on helping representatives of local governments, community anchor institutions, and economic development groups navigate the hurdles involved when pursuing a regional or community broadband project. The event will include workshopping opportunities where attendees can collaborate with industry thought leaders to address impending issues and identify solutions.
Merit, a statewide educational and research network run by Michigan’s public university system, is hosting the event. Michigan Moonshot is Merit’s effort to improve Internet access in the state by collecting accurate data, disseminating educational resources, influencing policy decisions, and connecting communities to funding.
“From determining ownership models and drafting network designs, to navigating the grant landscape, developing public-private partnerships, and deploying mapping initiatives, this year’s focus is singular — ACTION,” reads the Moonshot Summit website.
To attend this year’s event, “attendees must be a Merit Member and/or Broadband champions who are part of regional planning, building, and running efforts; economic development groups and local governments; or, institutions, community anchors and municipalities addressing the ‘digital divide.’”
Breakout Sessions and Speakers
The first breakout session of the Moonshot Summit will assist municipalities in “Navigating the METRO Act.”
As communities across the country are working to bring more affordable, reliable Internet access to their residents, one county in Michigan is gearing up to reach every household within its bounds. On Wednesday night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners held a Ways and Means meeting and unanimously approved a resolution obligating state funding, including American Rescue Plan funds, to several initiatives, with $14.6 million dollars being allocated to broadband infrastructure.
Although some communities in the county have made progress in recent years in improving connectivity, thousands of households have been left with broadband at basic speeds. While many are slated to receive service via the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, there are still 17 townships scattered across the county with more than 3,000 households that remained unserved.
Back in May, the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to plug the remaining holes, with the Task Force signalling its general happiness with the responses in the recent meeting. The allocation on Wednesday, if it receives final approval in the near future, will be used to fund the project proposals the Broadband Task Force is currently negotiating with four ISPs: Midwest Energy and Communications, Washtenaw Fiber, Comcast and Charter-Spectrum.
This vote brings the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force one step closer to its goal of countywide broadband equity. Its $14.6 million dollar plan will either be approved or vetoed by the County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 15.
The Journey to Countywide Broadband Equity
The Washtenaw County Broadband Subcommittee was formed in 2017 to assess the county’s broadband coverage and make recommendations about how to achieve “countywide broadband equity” by 2022.
The undertaking, which works towards connectivity solutions in support of "identifying and prioritizing unserved and underserved areas; funding, designing, building and operating networks to serve these areas and; ensuring that network access is affordable and that the devices and skills needed to benefit from that access are accessible to all" works with "partners throughout and beyond the state to help develop and implement strategies that move Michigan closer to the goal of providing universal access to pandemic- and future-ready 21st Century Communications Infrastructure, and the benefits it can support."
The webinar will provide a project update in the context of the anticipated federal funding for initiatives all over the country, and include experts who will speak to the advantages of separating the infrastructure and service delivery layer on broadband networks. From the registration page:
This webinar will examine a promising approach to Building Broadband Better: Community Empowerment Networks that utilize Automated Open Access (AOA) technology. As you will learn, these networks provide unique benefits, including reduced cost of operation; increased competition and innovation among ISPs; lower prices, increased choice, security and ease of use for customers and; an open platform for innovation and value creation by community service providers (CSPs), including organizations operating in the healthcare, education, public safety, government, public utility and nonprofit sectors.
Bruce Patterson (who recently joined EntryPoint Networks as Solution Services Director after 15 years as the city of Ammon's Technology Director), Jeff Christensen (President), and Mitch Shapiro will be the featured speakers.
Register for the webinar here.