Major Broadband Investment Comes to Michigan
October 11, 2023
We know it to be true that access to high-speed internet is essential to properly running your small business. In today’s economy, not having the tools necessary to run your operation in a timely and efficient manner is an obstacle to growth, especially when it comes to basic infrastructure like broadband.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer established the Michigan High- Speed Internet Office (MiHi) in 2021, which is housed in the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. This office was to assess, collaborate and enact a plan on how to shrink and eventually eliminate the gap in access to service in preparation for receiving historic federal funding under the BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) grant.
Since its inception, MiHi has included SBAM in its stakeholder roundtables as the voice of small business. We enjoy a robust relationship and the ability to feed into the system in a way that represents what entrepreneurs need. From our most rural to our most urban small businesses, and everything in between, we deem this to be invaluable to both of our respective entities.
Under the lead of SBAM’s Immediate Past Chair, Park Kersman, an internal task force was created and assembled to hear from members all over Michigan to share pertinent feedback. The task force is chaired by Gina Thorsen of Stormy Kromer in Ironwood.
Through numerous conversations the following themes rose to the top:
- Universal Quality Access: Areas with no access should be prioritized, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of low quality. While some areas are designated as served, it is often slow and unreliable. Making sure the work is done right the first time will ensure a solid infrastructure for years to come.
- Competition and Cost: As resources are deployed to build Internet infrastructure, it should be done in a way that facilitates competition among providers, rather than only subsidizing proprietary systems limited to one provider. Right now, many small businesses only have one option, which makes costs high and the service often lacks reliability.
- Mobility and Portability: Many small businesses and their workforce are now mobile or work remotely. The need for high-speed Internet access that is portable is critical. Having the ability to connect whenever and wherever you are is imperative to continued growth, and more importantly, to service your customers promptly.
In addition to these core principles, the task force has asked the MiHi office to consider that many rural communities that have the most challenges are run by part-time or even volunteer leadership. These communities will need technical assistance to develop and enact implementation plans so that their citizens, students and small businesses do not miss out. Lastly, technology changes quickly. Investments made today must be techno- logically relevant now and into the future.
In late June, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Michigan is set to receive $1.5 billion in funds to deploy resources across the state to erase the high-speed Internet deserts. Michigan ranked fourth in the most allocation to be received only coming in behind Texas, California and Missouri. Now Michigan will begin to put its deployment plan together to submit to the federal government for approval. SBAM has submitted its task force report to the MiHi office to include in its planning. We will keep you updated as more details unfold.
To view the full SBAM Broadband Task Force Report please visit www.sbam.org/advocacy.
By Kelli Saunders, originally published in SBAM’s September/October 2023 issue of Focus magazine