Building Michigan Together Plan to create more high-speed internet

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist

MARQUETTE — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 30 signed the Building Michigan Together Plan. Part of this plan includes $250 million in funding to provide 100% access to high-speed internet and 95% adoption by Michigan households during the next five years.

“We’ll make it so that internet access actually makes sense for people’s budgets. We know that will be a game changer as far as economic opportunity and improving economic outcomes for communities, enabling entrepreneurship and creativity and providing a wide range of educational services to people in communities across the Upper Peninsula and across Michigan,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in a web interview.

A press release stated that providing high-speed internet access will generate between $28.1 million and $35.5 million in annual economic benefits to consumers.

This internet access will improve the lives of Michigan residents in several ways, according to the governor’s office.

Some examples include: making it easier for patients to connect with specialists, so they don’t have to drive long distances to see a doctor; making it easier for students to connect with resources for help with school work; and giving employers the option to have their employees work remotely.

“It will help people be more productive, have better outcomes, and we think this is the direction that Michigan needs to go to be the first state to connect all of our people,” Gilchrist said.

The plan also created the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office and the Connecting Michigan Task Force to coordinate the state’s high-speed internet work and align the work with economic development opportunities, according to a press release.

It also signed the Broadband Expansion Act of Michigan, codifying the Connecting Michigan Communities Grant Program, a grant program to fill internet access gaps in underserved communities.

“I’m a technologist by training and by heart, I got my first computer when I was 5,” said Gilchrist, who is now 39. “My first job was building computers, and I remember showing an 8-year-old girl the internet for the first time, and what that unlocked in her, her eyes light up, her imagination gets this spark, because she could connect with information that wasn’t available locally, but was available on the other side of the world.

“I want every Michigander to have access to that kind of experience. It is transformational.”

According to Gilchrist, Michigan residents will see this part of the Building Michigan Together Plan start in 60 days.

“We’ll be staffing up the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office. The staffing will be paid for from the $250 million we’ve budgeted here,” he said. “We will have professionals working in state government as resources to partners, to local governments, to internet service providers, incumbent and new providers, about how they can work together to compete for the grant funding, to leverage federal resources, and to work together effectively to do what we came here to do, which is to connect our people.”

For more information on what the Building Michigan Together Plan entails, visit www.michigan.gov.

“Better connected communities are better communities,” Gilchrist said.

Taylor Johnson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is tjohnson@miningjournal.net.


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