The time is now: Michiganders speak up about broadband access
Cadillac, Michigan (May 31, 2023) - Access to affordable high-speed internet has become a necessity in many aspects of our daily lives. People who lack connectivity miss out on online learning, health care, and economic opportunities.
That is why the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI) took matters into its own hands to find out what Michigan residents, community leaders, business owners, and others had to say about their broadband (high-speed internet) connections during the 40-stop, MIHI Connected Future Tour this spring.
About 30% of Michiganders either don’t have access to the internet, can’t afford it, or are missing the skills and technology needed to effectively utilize an internet connection. With Michigan poised to receive $1.6 billion in federal funding, MIHI is looking to use those funds to expand high-speed internet service and achieve digital equity across the state. Feedback from the tour will help inform how to best use those funds.
On Wednesday, May 10, leaders from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) office, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) officials, and a few Connected Nation employees headed to Cadillac, Michigan, to hear what the community had to say.
The main topics discussed were availability and affordability.
Availability is a top issue in Cadillac because many residents and businesses reside in rural areas of the county. In these rural areas, both the top internet service providers and small ISPs struggle to get people the speed and quality connections they deserve. Below were some of the comments made by attendees about their issues with broadband availability.
- I use a small internet provider, and 90% of the people who live outside of the city get nothing. So, then we are forced to use satellite, which has very slow speeds” — William, Cadillac resident.
- “There is no infrastructure when you get away from the urban areas of the town. It gets in the way of people trying to do remote work. People cannot even get on a Zoom call.” — Sherry, Retired Michigan State University (MSU) employee.
The second biggest issue discussed was affordability. Major internet providers have increased their broadband prices over the past several years, leaving residents unable to afford the higher costs. Those residents are then forced to look to other options, which are likely, not available in their area — often leading them to no connection at all. Below were some of the comments made by attendees about their issues with affordability.
- “I only have one provider option in my area. That single option has increased over $40 multiple times. It’s so expensive that it’s not meant to accommodate regular people.” — Cindy, Cadillac resident.
- “People also do not have access to apply to these relief programs, like the Affordable Connectivity Program.” — Attendee.
Later, during the discussion about broadband barriers, attendees brainstormed possible solutions that MIHI can pursue to fix these problems once federal funding is awarded.
In the meantime, what is MIHI doing to help solve this broadband issue throughout the state? The first step was hosting these workshops to hear straight from the attendees what changes and improvements they want to see. Now that the tour is finished, the MIHI team is using what they learned to come up with an action plan on how to best allocate the funds. The plan will be published in the coming months.
You can learn more about the tour and past stops by clicking on the links below, OR head over to the MIHI website: https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/mihi