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Kent County Recognized as Certified Connected Community

Connect Michigan applauds the efforts of Kent County, Michigan, for achieving certification under Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program. Today, Connect Michigan presented Kent County’s certification and its Technology Action Plan at a meeting of Kent County Township Supervisors, City Mayors, and other officials. The release of this plan follows months of extensive analysis of the community’s broadband and technology environment to assess its capabilities and address its technology needs. The Technology Action Plan provides recommended action items to ensure Kent County continues to expand and enhance its extensive broadband capabilities to benefit residents, businesses, and other organizations across the county.

The Right Place, Inc., an economic development organization that supports Kent County and several other counties across west Michigan, along with many other interested organizations and stakeholders across the county, has been working with Connect Michigan and its Connected Community Engagement Program on this effort over the past year. This initiative assesses the local broadband landscape, identifies connectivity gaps, and establishes technology-driven goals to increase broadband access, adoption, and use for residents, organizations, and businesses throughout the community. Recognized as one of the best-connected counties in the state, Kent County joins more than 60 communities throughout the U.S. to achieve certification through the Connected program, making it the 20th to be certified in Michigan.

The Community Technology Action Plan for Kent County reports that more than 96% of households have access to at least 25 Mbps Internet, and that Kent County is served by 22 residential Internet service providers. Still, there are areas within the county (primarily more rural townships) where broadband availability remains limited and will require specific actions and partnerships with broadband providers to address those areas.

“Improving broadband capacity and accessibility is a necessity, not a luxury if west Michigan’s economic growth is to continue,” said Rick Chapla, VP Strategic Initiatives, The Right Place, Inc.

The Kent County Technology Action Plan sets general, community-wide broadband connectivity actions that will support and further enhance economic development and residential quality of life. The county’s top actions from the new plan include:

Continue to hold periodic Kent County broadband meetings to address current and future needs.
Share results of the Residential Broadband Survey with local providers to raise awareness of availability and speed issues and to help support a business case for improvements.
Keep Connect Michigan’s broadband surveys available for use by other Kent County municipalities, business sectors, and organizations that desire more in-depth assessment of their local broadband needs.
Identify partnerships with broadband providers, as appropriate, to help address needs in local municipalities where broadband availability and speed are lacking.
Pursue federal and state assistance in enabling greater broadband expansion through funding, regulation, or other actions.
The plan encompasses support for future broadband expansion and programs that will ensure the community maintains widespread Internet access, adoption, and use and continues to advance its technology standing in the digital economy.

"Robust broadband and technology access, adoption, and use are critical for communities to compete in the digital economy," said Eric Frederick, Executive Director for Connect Michigan. "Broadband connects communities to a global marketplace, providing innumerable opportunities for education, economic prosperity, delivery of government services, and more."