Connecting the Great Lakes State MIHI works to improve broadband in its rural and urban communities
Traverse City, Michigan (June 1, 2023) - The Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI) recently finished up its listening tour, dubbed the MIHI Connected Future Tour. This 40-stop tour covered the entire state over the past several months to gather information and feedback from local Michiganders about their broadband (high-speed internet) connectivity.
The MIHI office operates under the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) and works to create a more digitally equitable Michigan, where everyone can leverage technology to improve quality of life. As part of its plan to connect the state, MIHI is using feedback from these workshops to create a budget on how to best spend the $1.6 billion in federal funding the state will received toward broadband improvements.
During each stop, data was shown to better explain the state of connectivity Michigan residents face. According to MIHI, more than 1 in 6 Michigan households don’t have an internet connection — a troubling statistic that needs to be changed.
On Thursday, May 11, the tour stopped in Traverse City to hear what residents, business owners, law enforcement, school leaders, and other stakeholders had to say.
The main topics discussed were availability and tech-savvy (digital literacy).
Availability was one of the main barriers discussed, which didn’t shock the MIHI team. Lack of availability has been a big issue for the entire state. Many residents only have one choice for a provider, and that comes with challenges. The provider might not reach rural residences, or it is too expensive. Below were some of the comments made by attendees about their issues with availability.
- “My daughter was checking out a wedding venue, and it did not have Wi-Fi at all. I called the provider, and they said I could have it for $17,000, which was way over budget. We needed Wi-Fi at the wedding for the vendors and other forms of technology.” — Bob, Traverse City resident.
- “My house is only three-tenths of a mile away from the main road, and I still cannot get service. When I call the main provider in my area, they keep giving me the runaround.” — Tim, Traverse City resident.
The second biggest barrier discussed was tech savvy, also known as digital literacy. Some older Traverse City residents who live in town and get broadband face a different problem — they lack the adequate knowledge to use ever-changing technologies. Besides help from local librarians, there are really no resources to assist residents with learning how to use their laptops, tablets, etc. Below were some of the comments made by attendees about their issues with being tech-savvy.
- “Some seniors have access but do not know how to use it — they have some sort of fear of the technology. If no one comes to teach them, they will never learn.” — Lanna, Traverse City resident.
- “When is this going to end? When is everyone going to learn how to use online resources? These technologies will always be here. If you have it and don’t know how to use it, it's useless. Libraries are a great place to go for those resources, but not everyone has the time or capability to come to the library for assistance.” — Pam Williams, Library Director at Elk Rapids District Library.
Traverse City attendees also discussed the best use of federal funding to combat the issues of affordability and digital literacy, with the help of MIHI.
Now that the tour has come to an end, the MIHI team is using what they learned to create a plan of action on how to best distribute the $1.6 billion to improve connectivity throughout the state. To stay up-to-date on MIHI’s work and when its plan will be finished, head over to: https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/mihi.
Learn more about the MIHI Connected Future Tour by clicking the links below: