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Antrim County, MI

Bellaire, MI – Antrim County has become a certified community under Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program. Robin Ancona, director, Telecommunications Division, Michigan Public Service Commission, joined the Antrim County Community Engagement Team and Connect Michigan today at an event held at the Antrim County Building in Bellaire where the results from a community technology assessment and strategies for broadband expansion were unveiled.

“With this certification, Antrim County has proven it is ready to take the next steps to become better connected,” said John Quackenbush, chairman, Michigan Public Service Commission. “The result of their efforts is a concrete technology action plan that contains specific recommendations.”

The Antrim County Technology Action Plan contains specific recommendations of projects to expand digital literacy, build awareness of the benefits of broadband, assist businesses with websites and social media, and improve the online presence of local governments, among others. Achieving Connected certification affords a community an avenue to discuss its success and pursue opportunities as a recognized, technologically advanced community.

Three priority projects were identified in the plan including: expanding fiber access between local governments, developing a technology project center, and creating a teleworker support program.

“In this day and age, high-speed Internet is absolutely critical. It is no longer a luxury and it is essential for any kind of business growth,” said Andy Hayes, president of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. “No one can grow a business and no one will locate a business that depends on high-speed Internet access to an area without this vital utility. Working with organizations that can help us build that critical mass is essential to our economic development strategy.”

The Connected Community Engagement Program, facilitated by Connect Michigan, supports the development of a comprehensive strategy for building a “connected” community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment of broadband access, adoption, and use.

Other Michigan communities and organizations working to gain certification through this program include the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission; the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission; and the counties of Barry, Clare, Delta, Gladwin, Livingston, Marquette, Mecosta, Osceola, Oscoda, St. Clair, and Wexford.

Last summer, Charlevoix County became the first Connected certified community in the nation.

"While it is fantastic that Antrim County is now certified as a 'connected community' I don't see this as the ultimate goal,” said Peter Garwood, administrator, Antrim County. “I believe the greatest benefit of the new plan is that we now have a good idea of the areas of weakness in our broadband coverage - now it is time for all of us to continue to work together to fill those gaps to the best of our ability.”