By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.-Tere Onica, township supervisor recently discussed with Charter Internet the need for service or lack of service within the township.
“There has been no greater time than now that people are feeling it,” said Onica. “The problem of lack of service has become heightened due to the COVID-19 and so many people are working from home.”
Next month more than 400 Goodrich School District students and 700 Brandon students will be working from home due to the pandemic. Many area residents statewide also depend on the internet as they move their office home.
“Many people believe that we just have a bad telecommunications agreement, but they are all the same,” she said. “They do not really change from one community to the next. The problem is cost of infrastructure. We cannot force Charter to extend township wide service.”
The franchise agreements are “Uniform Franchise Communication Agreements,” she said.
David Waymire a spokesperson for the Michigan Cable and Telecommunications Association says the connection is there.
According to Connect Michigan, commissioned by the Michigan Public Service Commission, to map where broadband is available in Michigan, 96.79 percent of households have access to fixed broadband service.
“When you include mobile broadband service, 99.7 percent of households have service,” he said.
Waymire said that in 2018, the state established Connected Michigan Communities grant program, and provides for $20 million in state grants through 2023 for broadband expansion into areas that have not had service in the past.
Rep. Mike Mueller (R-51st) serving Atlas and Groveland townships is seeking to rectify the broadband expansion issues.
“Access to broadband internet in Michigan’s rural communities is one of the biggest infrastructure issues our state faces,” said Muller. “This is also one of the biggest obstacles in discussions about educating our school children online as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. My colleagues in the House are currently working on legislation that would dedicate state funds towards the purpose of broadband expansion, and I look forward to getting this initiative moving as soon as possible.”
Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-102nd) sponsored House Bill 4288, which would codify the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program into statute. The CMIC grant program allows internet providers to apply for up to $5 million in grant funding to provide internet services to undeserved areas, creating a direct pathway for any future funds dedicated towards the purpose of broadband expansion. Hoitenga, stated that she was following the current program closely to see what aspects work well and what areas could be improved upon through HB 4288. Hoitenga is the Chair of the House Commerce and Technology Committee where the bill currently awaits further consideration.
The CMIC grant program, is put on through the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).