Construction is set to begin soon to expand broadband access to people in Benzie County.
The construction was scheduled to begin Monday, but it was delayed to later in week because of the cold weather from over the weekend.
Benzie County is working with Eclipse Communications to install more high-speed broadband internet throughout the county. The Owner of Eclipse Communications, Christopher Varenhorst, says the process will be monumental for the future of Benzie County.
“This strategy that we have, that we have created together is not out of a text book, it’s not off of a search engine. It’s entirely been crafted and taken on a life of its own by our community and us working together,” Varenhorst claims.
The Benzie Economic Development Corporation established a Broadband Subcommittee. The subcommittee agreed that Benzie County would work with Eclipse Communication to help meet the county’s goal to expand broadband.
They also did a data collection feasibility study which they just completed. The Subcommittee will present their findings April 26.
The lack of access to broadband internet in Benzie County has been a struggle for years. The Benzie county Administrator, Katie Zeits, says the subcommittee survey shows around 50% of Benzie County doesn’t have internet. Zeits says they’re very excited for construction to begin.
“Eclipse Communication is going to expand to many households in Benzie County to continue to lower that number. We don’t want to see more than half of our people not having internet. It does nothing for our businesses, it does nothing for our children in this community. We want to do what we can to invest in those things here in Benzie County,” Zeits states.
The superintendent of Benzie Central Schools, Aimee Erfourth, says 30% of her students don’t have access to internet. During the pandemic, many students went to the library or school parking lot for Wi-Fi access. She says it was really hard to access students during the shutdown.
“We tried to meet with them, but many of them didn’t have access. So, paper packets were the thing. It’s really hard for our students to compete in the 21st Century with schools and communities that have access to everybody,” Erfourth explains.
Erfourth says it’s exciting and long-overdue for students and their families.
“It allows us to stay competitive, continue to learn and grow and it helps us in the long run with being able to allow families who work from home to be able to come and enjoy Northern Michigan. Live and play in this wonderful place that we all get to share,” Erfourth says.