Gilchrist unveils plan for high-speed internet access in Michigan

(Michigan Advance/Anna Liz Nichols)

By Michigan Advance

April 8, 2024

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—A program to ensure every Michigander has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet was unveiled Thursday by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI).

Michigan’s first-ever Digital Equity Plan is made possible through funding by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a federal agency that helps shape telecommunications and information policy.

“The development of this plan will help us understand better where we need to target resources and make investments and how we can ensure a level playing field for every Michigander no matter where they live,” said Gilchrist.

Michigan’s Digital Equity Plan was developed with feedback from over 800 residents who participated during MIHI’s 41 stop MI Connected Future statewide tour. According to a release, the engagement effort emphasized the various barriers many Michiganders face when it comes to high-speed internet, including the availability and affordability of services, affordability of internet-enabled devices, and digital skills.

“The MIHI Office is proud to lead this effort to ensure digital equity for all Michigan residents,” said Eric Frederick, Michigan’s chief connectivity officer. “This plan is a blueprint for empowering Michiganders with the digital tools and access the necessary resources to succeed in today’s digital world.”

This week, the NTIA announced more than $20 million will be awarded to Michigan through the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. The plan approval by the NTIA and the funding from the Capacity Grant Program enables MIHI to begin implementation of the plan. It follows $1.5 billion in funding Michigan received in 2023 to expand high-speed internet to approximately 210,000 homes in unserved and underserved areas.

The Michigan Digital Equity Plan includes what officials say is an integrated approach to closing gaps in education, healthcare, workforce development and civic engagement, which will culminate in the future implementation of a state-wide Digital Navigator Resource Network to support capacity building for communities to meet the needs of their residents throughout the state.

“MIHI approaches digital equity holistically and we are looking forward to working with communities to close the digital divide once and for all,” said Allie Herkenroder, Michigan’s digital equity director. “This plan could not exist without the support and involvement from Michiganders everywhere and we are excited to usher in an era of digital inclusion for Michigan.”

For more information on the Michigan Digital Equity Plan and other digital equity and inclusion resources, visit Michigan.gov/MIHI.

READ MORE: Whitmer administration deploys federal funds to protect clean water in rural Michigan

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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