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Charlevoix County, MI

Boyne City, MI – Residents of Charlevoix County can take pride in knowing that they have become the first “Connected” certified community nationally under Connected Nation’s Connected community engagement program. The announcement was made today at a broadband planning meeting held by the Charlevoix County Broadband Team at Boyne City High School. The Michigan Public Service Commission chairman, Connected Nation president, and dozens of community leaders were in attendance as results from the assessment and future plans for broadband expansion were unveiled.

“Charlevoix County can be proud to be the first community that has completed the broadband certification process offered by Connected Nation,” said Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John D. Quackenbush. “Joining together, they determined that the benefits of broadband would make this community a more attractive one – a community with a better business environment for economic development, improved healthcare, enhanced education, and an efficient government.”

This certification comes after a months-long planning process involving more than 36 community stakeholders representing key economic sectors. The planning and assessment began in February when Charlevoix County leaders teamed up with the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance to enroll in the Connected community engagement program. Staff from Connect Michigan, the statewide nonprofit promoting broadband expansion, led Charlevoix leaders through the steps of the new program offering a comprehensive and localized way for the community to assess their level of broadband access, adoption, and use and identify solutions for future expansion.

“We congratulate Charlevoix County on this milestone achievement,” said Connected Nation President and COO Tom Ferree. “The hard work of local leaders in this effort will pay off for all area residents for many years to come.”

Many are attracted to northern Lower Michigan for the region’s lush landscapes and abundant water resources. While the more densely populated areas of the county are well served by broadband, natural topographical barriers and a highly dispersed population base makes a difficult business case for expanding broadband networks in more remote areas.

A major step forward in closing this digital divide came when officials decided to enroll in the Connected community certification program through Connect Michigan.

“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 certification program entails building a comprehensive action plan for developing a technology-ready community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment. The broadband coverage of the area was measured using Connect Michigan’s broadband availability maps and survey research.

“The Charlevoix County Broadband Team has set an example for not only other Michigan communities, but communities across the county,” said Eric Frederick, Connect Michigan state program manager. “The team has taken steps to increase the adoption and use of broadband that are critical for a vital and sustainable community.”

The Charlevoix Action Plan unveiled today includes projects to expand digital literacy, build awareness for the benefits of broadband, and assist businesses with websites and social media, as well as improving the online presence of local governments, among other entities. Connected certification affords a community an avenue to discuss its success and pursue opportunities as a recognized, technologically advanced community.

The Connected program is part of the Connect Michigan initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce NTIA State Broadband Initiative (SBI) program. Connect Michigan is working to facilitate the access, adoption, and use of technology throughout the state to create a better business environment, more effective community and economic development, improved healthcare, more efficient government, enhanced education, and improved quality of life.