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State Issues Plan for Taking High-Speed Internet to (Nearly) Every Household

A subsidiary of nonprofit Connected Nation has promised to bring high-speed internet to every user in Michigan, with the help of the state's governor, Rick Snyder. Connect Michigan has been promoting the idea of ubiquitous access and adoption of broadband for eight years. The current goal, shared in a recent report by the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks (MCAN), is threefold:

  • To accomplish speeds of 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload to every resident and business by 2022;
  • To attain household adoption of 95 percent by 2024; and
  • To achieve gigabit per second by the year 2026.

State funding related to the project will initially focus on those areas that don't even have 10 Mbps download.

Connect Michigan served as technical advisors and external support staff for the MCAN project. MCAN gathered input from both public and private entities and held six "listening tours" with state residents before developing the plan.

Currently, MCAN reported, the state ranks 30th for the percentage of households with broadband availability. An estimated 380,000 households—most in rural areas—lack broadband service; another two million have only a single choice of internet service provider. A third of households that don't subscribe to the internet decline to do so because of the cost. The report added that closing the gap and making high-speed internet pervasive holds the promise of delivering $2.5 billion in economic opportunities among those unserved and underserved households.

Among the school-related short-term actions recommended in the report are these two: 1) to do an inventory of technology to provide data on current connectivity and digital tools in use by schools; and 2) to expand the use of "Educational Broadband Service" (EBS) across the state. The latter is spectrum initially used for the transmission of instructional material to accredited educational institutions. Although educational institutions and nonprofit organizations generally hold EBS licenses, licensees can also lease their excess capacity to commercial providers. And, in fact, in Michigan most of the bandwidth is currently being used by private entities.

The report also suggested compiling an inventory of "community anchor institutions" (CAI), such as universities and colleges, that can provide access to broadband, equipment and support for their local communities.

"As technology continues to rapidly change and evolve, having access to fast, reliable internet is now a necessity for everyday life," said the governor in a presentation at Escanaba Senior High, where the report was unveiled. "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."

"Our experience in the field has taught us that if you want to expand broadband access, it must be a group effort," added Eric Frederick, executive director of Connect Michigan, in a statement. "Communities, state policymakers, federal agencies, local residents, and businesses — everyone needs to be involved so we can first understand the issue, then identify solutions and ways to expand high-speed internet access to all areas."

The "Michigan Broadband Roadmap" is openly available on the state's website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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