Whitmer Creates State Office to Focus on Broadband Access

A quarter of the state does not have access to proper high speed Internet. The state now has a department focused on the issue.

By executive directive, Governor Gretchen Whitmer formed the Michigan High-Speed Internet office Wednesday. The goal? To get the state of Michigan completely online.

“Whether you are a student, or are you a farmer, or you are a governor, I’ve lost my internet connection at times in the last year,” said Whitmer.

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According to the state, one-in-four Michigan families don’t have appropriate high speed internet to meet their needs. From the rural areas of Northern Michigan to the streets of Detroit, it is a statewide issue and the pandemic exacerbated it.

The world went virtual and left them behind.

“While the pandemic appears to be ebbing,” said Eric Frederick of Connected Nation/Connected Michigan, “Many of our most vulnerable communities continue to struggle with all of these issues.”

The MIHI will be a state department focused on expanding signal service, rolling out cable and making high speed connections affordable.

“The internet is essential,” said Whitmer, “I know there’s a lot of people who want to define infrastructure in a lot of different ways but this is critical infrastructure, no question.”

The details of what exactly the office can and will do are still unknown. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist says building out this infrastructure is different than laying more roadway.

“I’m happy that as people are thinking of infrastructure, they have expanded their understanding of it to include internet access,” said Gilchrist, “This is an opportunity for public- private partnerships in a new way and I think we’re going to see some innovation on this issue. With this office facilitating that conversation to develop the model and be a national leader and what this looks like going forward, so you’ll have to stay tune for that.”