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Igniting Better Broadband in Rural Michigan

Though they may be 30, 40, 50, or even many more miles away from busy cities, rural areas seek the same advantages through technology as urban areas. While high population density attracts many broadband carriers to urban areas, many rural areas often struggle to get on the map. Alcona County, Michigan—with a population of about 11,000—is bringing their community and their technology assets together to expand education, healthcare, business, banking, entertainment, and more through broadband in the same ways many urban areas do.

The Leadership Alcona Technology Expo, set for October 22, began as a part of the Technology Action Plan the county developed with Connect Michigan. The need for better broadband brought Connect Michigan to the county’s attention and put the Expo on the schedule. Leadership Alcona, a volunteer group specializing in public speaking, community stewardship, and local business advancement, took on the project.

“We did a focus group where we invited members of the community, business owners, and community leaders, and we talked about what would make Alcona a better place to live,” said Marlena Mac Neill, spokesperson for Leadership Alcona. “What kept coming up was better Internet connectivity.”

The Leadership Alcona Technology Expo brings community leaders from law enforcement, banking, education, healthcare, and small business together to show residents, students, seniors, and business owners the opportunities technology provides, and how to access those opportunities safely.

“We’re appealing to a wide audience, from youth to seniors,” said Mac Neill. “We’re trying to reach across the spectrum.”

Students and their parents can learn more about the school district’s technology portal, how to submit and check homework online, and how to get the most out of the school’s Chromebooks. Local law enforcement will give students guidelines for staying safe online while they surf the web. Senior citizens will also learn how to avoid scams, social media etiquette, and business, entertainment, and communication tools available online.

Local healthcare experts will show how residents can use online tools to access medical records and virtual doctors. “Being in a rural area, that’s very important to us,” said Mac Neill. “Medical facilities are long distances away from where we live. If we have better broadband, we can have a better connection to healthcare.”

The goal of the Expo is to not only bring community members and resources together, but also garner more interest in improving broadband. “We’re really pushing to show that there is a need,” said MacNeill. “Whether there’s sparse population or not, we still want to be connected. We want to connect with the rest of the world just like anybody else.”

Learn more about technology conferences and new advancements in rural areas—and learn how to get your area connected. Visit or email Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program team at