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Next Century Cities Urges Local Officials and Community Leaders to Identify Broadband Ambitions and Obstacles

In June 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Directive 2021-2, which established the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (“MIHI”). The office is responsible for coordinating all state, federal, philanthropic, and private investments made into broadband infrastructure and its utilization. Fueling MIHI’s mandate are conclusions by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity that quantify the impact of Michigan’s digital divide.  

  • The State of Connectivity. More than 212,000 households in Michigan lack a high-speed internet connection and an additional 865,000 households face barriers related to affordability, adoption, or digital literacy. 
  • Obstacles. Approximately 31% of Michigan households do not have an affordable, reliable high-speed internet connection that meets their needs.
  • Homework Gap. Students with high-speed, home internet access have an overall grade point average of 3.18 versus the average 2.81 GPA for students with no home access and 2.75 average for students with only cell phone access.
  • Economic Impact. Having a home broadband connection gives households an estimated economic impact of $1,850 per year. Small businesses that have websites have higher annual revenues and are more likely to have recently hired one or more employees than similar businesses that aren’t online. Farmers who gain high-speed internet access experience an average 6% increase in farm revenue.

Communities across Michigan are exploring opportunities to address broadband disparities that exclude residents and businesses from countless online services. The City of Holland, an NCC member, launched a Broadband Taskforce that completed a listening tour earlier this year. Ottawa County, where Holland is located, is now conducting a broadband survey to better understand current needs and gauge public opinion about potential solutions. Merit’s Moonshot Community Grant Fund now supports planning and data collection efforts in communities across Michigan that set broadband as a formal priority. 

On November 9, 2021, Next Century Cities was invited to speak at the Moonshot Broadband Summit in Traverse City, Michigan. Executive Director, Francella Ochillo, and Policy Counsel for State and Local Initiatives, Corian Zacher, provided opening remarks on overcoming connectivity challenges. They shared ways in which local officials could help to improve broadband data collections, access new federal funding opportunities, and the importance of evaluating community assets.   

Harnessing the collective momentum to connect all Michiganders with high-quality broadband access will require local leadership, collaboration, and an innovative spirit. Convening local broadband advocates and sharing lessons learned from communities whose broadband journeys are well underway is a critically important first step. 

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