Michigan to receive $1.5B in federal funding to expand high-speed internet access

By Anna Gustafson, Michigan Advance

Michigan will receive about $1.5 billion in federal grants to expand high-speed internet to approximately 210,000 homes in unserved and underserved areas, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday. 

Calling it a “game-changing investment to expand access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” Whitmer said the funding from the federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program will help struggling households and boost the state’s economy.

“Today’s win will expand economic opportunity for Michiganders and build on the over $700 million in high-speed internet federal funding we have leveraged and $249 million we invested with the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan last year,” Whitmer said in a prepared statement.

Funding for BEAD comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Congress passed in 2021. The legislation included $65 billion to close the nation’s digital divide that in Michigan especially impacts low-income households, older residents, and Black and Latino residents, according to a 2021 report from the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO).

In that report, LEO said an estimated 1.24 million Michigan households did not have a permanent, fixed internet connection at home. Nearly 35% of households earning less than $20,000 annually do not have a broadband connection, and the same goes for 22% of Michiganders ages 65 and older, according to LEO. Black and Latino Michiganders were half as likely to have a home broadband connection than non-Black or Latino residents, LEO reported.

As part of the BEAD program, each state will receive at least $100 million to close the digital divide. The Michigan High Speed Internet Office now must finish BEAD’s required five-year action plan that will set the priorities for the implementation of the $1.5 billion – including achieving universal availability of high-speed internet across the state, according to a press release from Whitmer’s office. 

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

Michigan’s federal lawmakers expect the funding to significantly reshape the state’s economic landscape and help families do everything from attend classes online to connect to health care.

“High speed internet isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential service that we need for everything from work, school, doctors’ visits, and paying our bills,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) said in a press release. 

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