broadbandA consortium established by Michigan governor Rick Snyder has come up with a wide range of recommendations for increasing broadband availability in the state, which currently ranks 30th among the 50 states in broadband availability and 34th on broadband adoption. The consortium, known as the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks (MCAN), made its recommendations in a 100-page report titled “Michigan Broadband Roadmap.”

MCAN’s goals include enabling all homes and businesses in the state to have broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps upstream and 3 Mbps downstream available to them by 2022 and speeds of at least 1 Gbps by 2026. In addition, MCAN aims to see a 95% broadband adoption rate for the state by 2024.

Recommendations include using a $20 million Connecting Michigan Communities grant to support between 50 and 100 projects annually that fund targeted investments that use broadband in innovative ways to increase economic activity. Priority will be given to proposals that are part of a comprehensive economic development strategy and that involve collaboration between broadband providers, municipalities, anchor institutions, philanthropic organizations and similar entities.

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Another recommendation is to create an annual $500,000 fund to provide matching dollars to schools applying for E-Rate funding from the Universal Service Fund schools and libraries program.

Michigan Broadband Roadmap
The Michigan Broadband Roadmap 95% broadband adoption goal is a particularly ambitious one, considering that 35.1% of Michigan households do not subscribe to fixed terrestrial broadband service and researchers found a strong correlation between household income and broadband. According to the report, 41.8% of households with annual incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 and 43.7% of households with incomes below $10,000 subscribe to broadband.

(Source: Michigan Broadband Roapm)ap Report)

Not surprisingly, cost was the top reason for households not subscribing to broadband, with 31% of households in that category citing it as their primary barrier.

The consortium’s ideas for addressing this include reviewing the Michigan Telecommunications Act for possible enhancements to the Lifeline low-income program, exploring using surplus equipment to provide low-cost devices and increasing outreach and education for low-cost broadband programs such as Comcast’s low-income Internet Essentials service that provides broadband to qualified households for $10 a month.

Other highlights of the numerous recommendations included in the Michigan Broadband Roadmap:

  • Convening a workgroup of outside experts in the fields of community development and philanthropy to develop guidelines for the creation of a “Kalamazoo Promise”-style funding program for broadband. The Kalamazoo Promise is a philanthropic program that funds college education for students graduating from the Kalamazoo school district, which has yielded numerous indirect benefits for the city by making it a more attractive place to live.
  • Leverage the resources offered by Snyder’s Marshall Plan for Talent to identify opportunities for training residents to meet the workforce needs of internet service providers.
  • Identify and aggregate broadband infrastructure data, building on the work of the Michigan Asset Management Pilot. The report cites a useful initiative undertaken in Michigan’s Ogemaw county to create an inventory or “vertical assets” such as barns, water towers and silos that can be used to install broadband infrastructure – an initiative Telecompetitor previously covered last year.
  • Inventory the location and current connectivity of Michigan’s community anchor institutions such as health care facilities, libraries and government agencies.
Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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