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At the Speed of Broadband: How A Rural Michigan County is Improving Its Internet Access

Lake County, MI. (August 21, 2019) - Over the past several years, Lake County, Michigan, has seen its fair share of problems with broadband. Most of the county does not have fast enough internet speeds, while some areas don’t have it at all. Some providers are unaware of the problem, which Connected Nation has partnered with Casair to solve by developing a technology plan and bringing back broadband to this area.

Lake County has one of the state’s lowest percentages of population (less than 3 percent) with access to 25/3 Mbps speeds. It is also one of the poorest counties in the state. But by sticking with them and developing a plan, changes are already happening.

“Lake County first approached Casair back in the late ’90s to bring broadband to the area, but we couldn't make a business case given the low home density,” said Steve Meinhardt, CEO of Casair Inc. Internet. “We are going to accomplish the goal of broadband for the eastern half of Lake County, Osceola County and northern Newaygo County by bringing in FCC's CAF2 funding and building a hybrid wireless fiber system.”

Casair is a Mid-Michigan wireless internet provider that has received Connect America Funding to expand services into Lake County. They are currently plowing in a major fiber optic line along US-10 into Baldwin, which is the county seat of Lake County.

“Connect Michigan facilitated meetings between Casair’s staff and organizations in and around Lake County to work together and maximize this buildout,” said Tom Stephenson, Community Technology Advisor for Connected Nation. “As Casair plows in this fiber optic line, they are using new technology and techniques that allow access to this fiber for all the residents and business along the route. Once they get to Baldwin, already there are several businesses south of Baldwin requesting Casair to continue the fiber optic line south along the US-37 corridor.”

But this goes beyond Lake County. Stephenson has also facilitated meetings with the county leaders of Osceola, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana and Missaukee counties, all of which have developed technology plans for better broadband access.

By bringing in high-speed broadband internet, the residents of Lake County now have an opportunity to learn how to use this tool and better their lives overall.

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“Lake County is blessed to have access to high-speed internet, but new tools will require extensive training of the local population. Communities like Idlewild are home to many who do not have the training to use all the potential that high-speed internet provides to the individual and the whole community,” said Larry Lewis, Lake County Internet Champion Owner of Carter, Lewis and Associates.

“Without an aggressive public, free or low-cost training option, the full advantage of this opportunity will be lost. Idlewild, a National Historic Community, has a 100 year history of promoting African-American education looks forward to this new challenge to become part of the 21st century's superhighway.”

About the Author: Lily McCoy is the Communications Social Media Specialist for Connected Nation. Lily provides support to the Communications Department through social media outreach and writing. She also adds a source of creativity to the team with a background in personal relations and marketing. Lily is a recent graduate from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in corporate and organizational communications.