Crain’s Detroit Business
Oct. 7, 2022
Michigan stands as one of a handful of states receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to boost internet connectivity, according to an announcement this week from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Michigan has been approved to receive $250.6 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 67,857 households and businesses, according to a Thursday news release. That amounts to 23 percent of locations in the state lacking a high-speed internet connection, according to Treasury.
“The COVID-19 crisis changed how we worked and learned, making us even more reliable on the internet,” Michigan Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in the release. “In Michigan, many families were left behind because too many of our rural and low-income communities did not have high-speed internet. … We all worked together to get the American Rescue Plan across the finish line and it’s exciting to see the results here in Michigan.”
The ARP funds for Michigan will go toward the Michigan Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) program, described in the release as “a competitive grant program designed to provide funding to extend broadband infrastructure and service to locations currently lacking access to at least 100/20 Mbps.”
A fact sheet from the administration of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the ROBIN program will be administered by the state’s Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, and $238.7 million of the funds will go toward internet expansion in “underservered locations” around the state, with the remaining funds being used for administration of the program.
“Underserved locations” are defined as homes, businesses and institutions without internet service available at a speed of at least 100/20 Mbps from at least one internet service provider,” according to the fact sheet.
The Michigan High-Speed Internet Office is still developing the final grant criteria and it’s expected that a 60-day application window will open before the end of the year. Eligible applicants for the program will include internet service providers, entities licensed under the state’s Telecommunications Act, governmental entities engaged in a public-private partnership and others, according to the fact sheet. The funds must be used by the end of 2026.
The Treasury Department this week announced a total of $435 million in ARP funds. Massachusetts and Wisconsin also received funding, according to the release.
As Crain’s has previously reported, state officials and experts in the field of broadband connectivity believe Michigan is approaching the point where the so-called “digital divide,” the gap between those with or without reliable internet service at home, could be closed.
However, much work remains when it comes to addressing issues of affordability of internet service and broader digital literacy.