Recognizing that their county was being left behind in regard to Internet access and digital literacy, officials in Osceola County, Michigan, knew they needed to spark a change. In September 2012, Osceola County began a long journey of ongoing development and cooperation to make a positive change to Internet access, adoption, and use. And, 31 months later, their hard work, planning, and dedication has paid off. Osceola County is now recognized as a certified Connected community, showing quantifiable proof that levels of broadband use, availability, and digital literacy are in line with FCC benchmarks and are now at nationally competitive levels.
“We knew we had a problem,” said Dan Massy, Osceola County Community Development Coordinator. “We just didn’t know how to start or where to go.”
Massy and Osceola Township Supervisor Paul Brown discussed the unavailability of reliable broadband on a number of occasions. Brown discovered that a neighboring county was working with Connect Michigan to solve similar problems with broadband development. “We both went to their meeting,” said Massy. “We were impressed. That’s when we set up our first meeting in 2012.”
Improvements began slowly, with townships across the county participating and organizations across the state helping. Lansing technical consulting firm Courtland Consulting conducted seminars to improve digital literacy for residents and businesses, Michelle Thren, Certified Fraud Examiner at Chemical Bank, led classes on cyber security, and libraries and chambers of commerce throughout the county introduced online classes for businesses and residents. At the county level, a website redesign provided more functionality and better organization.
One of the key obstacles to greater access was simply a lack of infrastructure, a problem that could only be solved by ISPs. Like many sparsely-populated, rural communities, Osceola County struggled with garnering the interest of ISPs. A county-wide broadband survey, which showed where Internet was available and where it was unavailable but desired, made a considerable impact. With this information measured and published, one ISP saw a business opportunity and approached the county about laying more lines.
“For me, it’s a quality of life issue. [Broadband] touches everything, from business to education to healthcare,” said Massy. “Our association with Connect Michigan has given us the resources we didn’t have anywhere else, so we can move forward.”
Working through the program one step at a time, Osceola County demonstrated both the determination and spirit of solidarity needed to make positive community-wide change. Tackling each challenge over a period of nearly three years and continuing to improve broadband resources still today, Osceola County has become one of Connect Michigan’s longest-standing and most dedicated Connected candidates, now a Connected community.
Learn more about what it means to be a Connected community and learn how your community can start their journey at www.connectmycommunity.org.
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