How this town in Michigan has earned the title of ‘Comeback Kid’
Lake County, MI (August 3, 2022) - A digital desert is an area without any internet service providers (ISPs)*. Lake County, Michigan — a serene town surrounded by nature and home to about 12,000 residents — was on the cusp of being qualified as a digital desert. Without broadband (high-speed internet), Lake County struggled with maintaining its place in an ever-growing digital world.
Larry Lewis, a 20-year Lake County resident, explains, “DSL was the fastest you could get. It was limited to about two or three locations in the entire county. It was over $100, and if you lived more than six miles from downtown Baldwin or downtown Luther, you couldn't get it. There was no cable anywhere in the county.”
With the combination of prices being incredibly high and areas of connection sparse, it’s no wonder only a few residents could connect.
The inaccessibility of internet negatively affected how the town functioned on a day-to-day basis. Without broadband, businesses couldn’t expand, residents couldn’t contact each other, and most devastatingly, Lewis recalls a time when fire departments struggled to do their job.
“There are spots in this county where you have no cell phone service, so the internet became the default way of communicating,” he says. “Those communities that didn't have good internet with no telephone service — buildings burned, you lost lives, you lost communities because of poor communication.”
Recognizing that action needed to be taken, county leaders and residents banded together to bring internet to their beautiful community. In collaboration with Connected Nation Michigan, and over the course of many years, reliable broadband is steadily making its way throughout Lake County.
“The libraries in Luther, Baldwin and Chase all have high-speed, which means that now people can come in and do job applications, they can do telemedicine, they can do their online learning. These were all impossible tasks two, three or four years ago in those communities,” shares Lewis.
The addition of broadband is not only increasing Lake County residents’ connection to the world around them, but to the people right next door to them.
Residents can now connect to social media, create their own websites, and promote their own businesses. Paul Avery, a Lake County resident for most of his life and owner of the Tiki Hut, a local farmers market, said that having high-speed broadband is a necessity for work.
With an inadequate connection, “It’s a little bit more difficult to run a business,” he says. “I also taught for a lot of years online, so it was real important to not have bad internet.”
Improved broadband, combined with Lake County’s incredible scenery, makes it the perfect place to spend an afternoon, weekend, or even a lifetime.
"It's a nice place to come visit for the summer, maybe live." chuckles Avery.
As the quality, range, and price of internet have improved in recent years, the number of people choosing to make Lake County their home has also increased. While the community seems to be conquering the Digital Divide, there is still work to be done. Hundreds of residents still don’t have internet, including Avery, who owns two homes but can’t get internet in one of them.
Lake County leaders understand that the process of getting everyone connected will take time, effort, and cooperation. Connected Nation will be there to help.
As Lewis adoringly says, “We're the comeback kid.
*Connected Nation, Mapping Analysis, To Consumers and Citizens. https://connectednation.org/mapping_analysis/ .
About the Author: Nyla Nawab is a Connected Nation Communications and Marketing intern. She is an incoming sophomore at Saint Louis University and an English major. At Connected Nation she assists with writing, company blogs, social media posting, and website editing.