Michigan recently awarded $203 million in grants for projects that will provide over 70,000 underserved Michigan homes and businesses with high-speed internet access.
Eighteen projects proposed by nine applicants received funding from the first round of the state’s Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks grant program, known as ROBIN, which allocates money to internet service providers to use in developing broadband infrastructure and is paid for through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. In total, the grant program will allocate $238 million in federal dollars to bring broadband to 90,000 locations throughout the state.
“Every Michigander deserves access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet that meets their needs,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “We know that a reliable connection is not a luxury—it’s a necessity for health care, education, employment, entertainment, and so much more.”
About 31% of Michigan households don’t have affordable and reliable internet connection, according to the Michigan Labor and Economic Opportunity Department. Reports have shown that a good internet connection can positively affect a student’s academic performance, reduce health care costs through telemedicine and improve sales for small businesses.
Betsy Coffia, a Democratic state representative from Traverse City, said in a statement that a lack of high-speed internet access is one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of economic development in Northern Michigan cities.
“I am thrilled to see more homes and businesses will be connected to this vital service to help kids complete their schoolwork and entrepreneurs reach their customers,” Coffia said.
The governor’s office said Michigan’s grant awards build on work done by President Joe Biden’s administration to close the digital divide and expand internet access in the United States.
Federal aid has previously been used to connect hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the internet. The state’s internet office was allocated $250.6 million in 2022 and another $1.5 billion in June, which provided reliable internet access to about 268,000 residents in total.
The state received 154 applications worth a proposed $1.3 billion in grant funds for the ROBIN grant program. After a review, that number was initially whittled down to 24 projects before 18 were selected.
With a private match investment of $202 million, the first round of grants represents a total investment of $405 million toward broadband infrastructure in Michigan.
The projects awarded are:
- Allegan County – 11,024 locations.
- Benzie County – 1,428 locations.
- Branch County – 4,690 locations.
- Kalkaska District (Antrim, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Otsego counties) – 3,660 locations.
- Scottville District (Lake, Manistee, Mason and Oceana counties) – 3,384 locations.
- Waters District (Crawford, Montmorency and Otsego counties) – 2,465 locations.
- Midland-Saginaw (Bay, Gratiot, Midland and Saginaw counties) – 1,446 locations.
- MEC-VBCS (Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties) – 15,846 locations.
- Quad County (Alcona, Arenac, Bay, Gladwin, Iosco, Ogemaw and Oscoda counties) – 5,552 locations.
- Kent-Ionia (Barry, Ionia and Kent counties) – 2,520 locations.
- Clare-Gladwin (Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Mecosta and Midland counties) – 7,836 locations.
- Leelanau County (Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Manistee and Wexford counties) – 2,150 locations.
- Cheboygan County – 669 locations.
- Montcalm County – 1,481 locations.
- Kent County – 792 locations.
- Newaygo County – 1,911 locations.
- Kalamazoo County – 917 locations.
- Ingham and Livingston counties – 3,562 locations.
According to the state’s ROBIN database, the recipients of the Quad County, Kent-Ionia and Clare-Gladwin grants withdrew their project after the award announcement. The remaining funds will be added to the next round of projects, which the state’s internet office will announce later this fall.
“ROBIN is a critical part of Michigan’s broadband expansion plan to the state’s unserved areas and will provide internet service providers and public-private partnerships the funds to deploy broadband infrastructure,” Eric Frederick, Michigan’s chief connectivity officer, said in a statement. “ROBIN is the first piece of the puzzle in getting all Michigander’s connected and we are eager to get the funds out the door.”