‘Game-Changing’ Biden Plan to to Connect 200K Michiganders to High-Speed Broadband Internet

President Joe Biden speaks during an event about high speed internet infrastructure, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, June 26, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Kyle Kaminski

June 27, 2023

A new initiative from President Joe Biden’s administration is sending more than $1.5 billion to Michigan to expand internet access in areas of the state with shoddy (or no) connectivity.

MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week announced a “game-changing” federal investment from President Joe Biden’s administration that’s designed to expand access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for at least 210,000 homes across Michigan.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said the federal funding will play a “major part in closing the state’s digital divide and connecting Michiganders to education, health care, and economic opportunity.” 

“Governor Whitmer and I are committed to expanding access to high-speed internet throughout Michigan and will continue working with anyone to connect Michigan families and small businesses and grow our economy,” Gilchrist said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Here’s the deal:

President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act earmarked a total of $42.45 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, which aims to help every state and territory and the District of Columbia expand broadband internet connectivity. 

Each state got at least $100 million to start, with additional cash prioritized in pockets of the country with exceptionally slow internet speeds, or no internet connectivity at all.

Under Biden, Michigan has already scored more than $700 million in high-speed internet funding from the federal government—including an eight-figure federal grant announced last week. The state also pitched in $249 million toward the effort in last year’s budget. Officials said that more than 23,000 Michigan families have gained access to high-speed internet since 2019.

This week, Whitmer announced that Michigan is set to receive another $1.5 billion in federal funding—ultimately allowing 210,000 more homes to gain access to high-speed internet.

“We are focused on helping anyone ‘Make it in Michigan,’ with a comprehensive view on economic development that wins projects, invests in people, and revitalizes places,” Whitmer added. “Let’s keep working together to connect more families and small businesses to fast, reliable high-speed internet that meets their needs, lowers their costs, and grows our economy.”   

READ MORE: Michigan Scores Grant to Build Hundreds of Miles of High-Speed Internet

Who will benefit?

Everyone. State officials said the funding will ultimately ensure that every home and business in all of Michigan’s 83 counties eventually has access to high-speed broadband internet, and with it, more opportunities and benefits.

“Access to high-speed internet means access to jobs, education, and healthcare,” Michigan Chief Infrastructure Officer Zachary Kolodin said in a statement. “These investments will mean that even the most remote areas of Michigan have equitable access to high-speed internet.”

Statistics show that more than 8.5 million households and small businesses nationwide are located in areas without high-speed internet—including about 370,000 locations in Michigan. 

Connecting all Michiganders to high-speed internet is also expected to bolster economic opportunities, which state lawmakers expect will pay dividends for the economy as a whole.

“High speed internet isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential service that we need for everything,” US Sen Debbie Stabenow said in a statement. “This new infrastructure will allow for telemedicine, remote learning, and other services that families and businesses rely on in Michigan.” 

When will the help be available?

State officials said they plan to finish a five-year action plan that’s required as part of the federal program, which will help identify more specific goals and priorities for how to spend the cash. 

The state’s High Speed Internet Office will then distribute the funding in the form of grants, which are expected to begin rolling out to unserved and underserved areas in mid- to late-2024. Updates on the status and availability of federal assistance will be posted to this state website

In the meantime, some federal assistance is already available for Michiganders.

Whitmer last month announced the “Michigan ACP Act Now” initiative, which is designed to increase public awareness of the $14.2 billion in federal funding that’s available to help low-income families score discounts on their internet bills and computer purchases via the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP—another federal broadband benefit secured as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—offers eligible households a recurring discount of up to $30 (or up to $75 for homes on tribal land) on the cost of their monthly internet bill and a one-time, $100 discount toward a new laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.

Eligible households include those with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (roughly $29,000 or less for an individual or $60,000 or less for a family of four), as well as those who qualify for state food assistance benefits. More than 650,000 Michigan households have enrolled for help over the last two years—and there’s still plenty of cash to go around.

Click here for more information about the program.

READ MORE: Can’t Afford Faster Internet? Michigan is Launching a New Effort to Help.

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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