Federal grants fund broadband internet access for more than 300,000 Michigan residents

Joe Biden

More than 300,000 homes and businesses in Michigan are set to receive high-speed internet access funded by federal legislation signed by President Joe Biden.

On June 20, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the state was recommending 24 broadband expansion projects expected to serve nearly 106,000 locations for funding through Michigan’s Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program.

“These grant dollars will help make internet more affordable for thousands of Michiganders, allowing them greater access to critical resources such as remote education, telemedicine, and online networking and job searching tools,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity director Susan Corbin said in a statement.

Michigan received a federal grant of $250.6 million in October from the American Rescue Plan, the economic stimulus program that Biden signed into law in 2021. Those funds were used to create the ROBIN program.

The 11 companies that proposed the expansion projects have committed to providing $311 million in matching funds for the venture. The companies involved include Spectrum, AT&T, Brightspeed, and Great Lakes Energy.

Additionally, Whitmer announced in a June 26 press release that 200,000 residents would get access to high-speed internet following an allocation of $1.5 billion from the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. The money for that program comes from the 2022 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Whitmer administration said the state’s high-speed internet office would submit a five-year action plan to the federal government, detailing its intended use of the funds. Money from the program is expected to be deployed in mid-to-late 2024.

According to data from the Michigan Department of Labor, about 31% of households in the state lack access to reliable and affordable broadband internet. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for broadband access across the United States, when underserved areas encountered significant obstacles to online access to schools, medical care, and work.

Scott Randall, general manager of the Marquette-based Peninsula Fiber Network, said high-speed internet was a necessity for Michigan.

“Internet connectivity is the backbone of Michigan’s economy, allowing businesses to thrive, connecting people to health care services and education providers, and helping people communicate locally and around the globe,” Randall said in a June 16 statement after his company had received a federal broadband infrastructure grant.

The Biden administration has stressed that high-speed connectivity is a modern necessity and expressed a commitment to connecting all Americans to broadband services by the end of the decade.

In June remarks at the White House touting his administration’s actions to expand high-speed internet access, Biden explained, “These investments will help all Americans. We’re not going to leave anyone behind.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.