Image via Unsplash
Image via Unsplash

“We can help businesses grow and lower costs for Michiganders to connect to the internet so they can go to school, access health care, participate in the economy, and more,” the governor said. “This critical service is not a luxury—it is a necessity.”

Need to Know

  • The Broadband Infrastructure Audit and Validation project will find and map the exact locations of existing high-speed internet assets in Michigan and identify gaps in coverage.
  • The project will allow the state to more effectively spend the more than $100 million in federal funds coming Michigan’s way to expand access to high-speed internet. 
  • More than 1.2 million Michigan households currently lack a permanent fixed broadband connection at home.

MICHIGAN–Michigan is one step closer to achieving statewide access to high-speed internet. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist on Monday announced a new effort to conduct a full audit of the state’s high-speed internet service to identify gaps in coverage and provide officials with a roadmap for expanding access.

The Broadband Infrastructure Audit and Validation project will be a six-month effort led by the state of Michigan in partnership with Connected Nation Michigan. The project will use $5.2 million in federal funds to find and map the exact locations of existing high-speed internet assets in Michigan and identify where access to high-speed internet doesn’t exist along more than 65,000 miles of public right-of-way—land that’s accessible to the public, such as streets and sidewalks. 

The project will give the state a better understanding of how best to spend the more than $100 million in federal funds coming Michigan’s way to expand access to high-speed internet. Those funds, allocated as part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law, are expected to provide a crucial boost to Michigan’s effort to expand broadband access to communities that currently lack it.

“In today’s society, the fastest way to create an even playing field and grow our economy is through affordable access to high-speed internet,” Whitmer said in a statement. “When we make investments in this critical infrastructure, we can help businesses grow and lower costs for Michiganders to connect to the internet so they can go to school, access health care, participate in the economy, and more. This critical service is not a luxury—it is a necessity.”

More than 1.2 million Michigan households currently lack a permanent fixed broadband connection at home, according to a 2021 report from the Michigan Office of High-Speed Internet. Nearly 35% of Michigan households earning under $20,000 a year lacked a broadband connection at home, as do more than 22% of Michigan seniors (395,000). 

RELATED: ‘It’s Just a Hard-to-Imagine World’: Rural Michiganders Open up About Living Without Broadband

Other research has shown that anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 Michigan students lacked access to broadband at home during the pandemic.

The consequences of living without broadband internet are vast, impacting the ability to learn and develop crucial skills, work and maintain a job, run a business, access health care, and so much more. 

The ability to shop online, for example, saves consumers money, and studies have shown that these savings allow households with high-speed broadband access to save an estimated $1,850 per year. Research from the FCC shows that access to broadband also helps small businesses and allows farms to increase their crop yields and reduce their operating costs, thus boosting revenues. 

Increased access to the internet has also been shown to help older adults feel less isolated, a critical finding as isolation is associated with worse health outcomes and even premature death.

If every household in the state is connected to high-speed broadband, Michigan will see an additional $1.8 billion to $2.7 billion in annual economic benefits, according to the report from the High-Speed Internet Office.