Gov. Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist Announce Project to Connect Michiganders to High-Speed Internet

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II announced Monday that the State of Michigan has partnered with Connected Nati0n Michigan to lead the Broadband Infrastructure Audit and Validation project over the next six months.

Officials say the project will utilize $5.2 million in federal CARES Act funding to conduct a full accounting of Michigan’s high-speed internet service to identify gaps and provide a clearer picture as officials plan to largely expand access through the bipartisan federal infrastructure funding.

The effort will help identify and map the precise location of existing high-speed internet assets in the state and the areas where access to high-speed internet is absent. This includes more than 65,000 miles of public right-of-way.

The funds were allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with the purpose of assisting with COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery. Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) CARES funding should be used to fund eligible activities related to drive longer-term recovery and revitalization for low and moderate-income individuals.

Understanding where high-speed internet access and assets exist, and where there are gaps, will be “critical in both securing and prioritizing the $100 million in federal funding that is anticipated to be coming to Michigan for high-speed internet infrastructure buildout,” according to officials.

“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,” stated Governor Whitmer. “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. Today’s announcement will help us chart out how to efficiently expand high-speed internet access in communities across our state.”

“Every person in Michigan must have access to fast, affordable, high-quality internet service where they live so that all of our communities can thrive,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist. “This effort will use a statewide, coordinated approach to gather information in every zip code that will enable us to increase internet access and adoption, and identify the resources we need to connect every household and business in every community in Michigan.”

While funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Broadband Infrastructure Audit and Validation Project will be implemented in full partnership with the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, complementing many requirements new federal programs which will be placed on the office.

Officials say states are required to identify all eligible locations for federal investments within their borders and this project will do just that. They say the sooner that the state identifies these locations, the more efficient and accurate infrastructure plans can be and the sooner funds can be administered for new network deployments.

“To lift more Michiganders up with equal opportunity and set Michigan up for economic prosperity, we need to remove barriers in high-speed internet availability, affordability and adoption that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income households,” said LEO Director Susan Corbin. “This once-in-a-generation investment will help provide the framework to eliminate the digital divide, remove barriers and implement programs that assist Michiganders with access and adoption of high-speed internet.”

“High-speed internet is critical for success in today’s world,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO and Michigan Strategic Fund President and Chair Quentin Messer Jr. “We are committed to working alongside our private industry partners in this effort, realizing that by working together to tackle this statewide issue, collectively, we will generate greater economic impact in affording more of our 10 million plus friends and neighbors counting on us to get consistently reliable high-speed internet connectivity right across our great state.”