LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan government is about to get the money to staff a brand new office.
Once this office is operational, it will be responsible for providing reliable high-speed Internet access to areas that have long faced patchy coverage. It’s all in a supplementary budget that Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law earlier this week.
“There are a lot of pockets that don’t have good internet,” said Joanne Galloway, who is executive director of the Center for Change: a northern Michigan advocacy group. “It’s not just an UP problem. It’s not just a Northern Michigan problem. It’s just outside of Battle Creek.
Center for Change has been working on this issue for a few years. Michigan already has an office designed to help the more than 200,000 Michigan residents without reliable internet, called the Michigan High Speed Internet Office, created by Governor Whitmer last spring. But in the months since its creation, the Legislative Assembly has not allocated money to make it work. That is, until this week.
“Which meant it was just a desktop shell,” Galloway said.
A map provided by the governor’s office shows that even the Lansing area is somewhat patchy, especially just outside of Charlotte. But it’s even worse in the North. There is even less access.
Lack of reliable internet access has been a problem for rural areas since even before the pandemic and it has highlighted how much schools and students depend on internet access.
“We’re not reaching about a third of the school population,” said Gary Wellnitz of the American Federation of Teachers. Michigan.”
In total, the infrastructure bill includes $250 million to pay for full-time staff in the new office and fund grants for building and managing the improved broadband network.
“It’s time for Michiganders to take control of broadband infrastructure development here in Michigan,” Galloway said. “So that we have people dedicated to creating a blueprint and a blueprint that will ensure everyone in the state has access to high-speed internet.”
The supplementary budget also includes funds to improve roads, housing, parks and water.
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