Tag: "washtenaw county broadband task force"

Posted October 15, 2021 by Maren Machles

Countywide Internet access is no longer up in the air for Washtenaw County, Michigan residents. On September 15th, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to $15.5 million in funding to support the County Broadband Task Force’s efforts to achieve countywide broadband equity. 

Washtenaw County (pop. 372,000) has long struggled with bringing broadband to its residents because incumbent providers wouldn’t invest in its more rural communities. However, with this new investment from the county and the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, the county promises the remaining gaps in broadband will be closed. 

“This is a huge win for every resident of Washtenaw County,” Barbara Fuller, Chair of the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force said in a press release. “The Board of Commissioners tasked us with achieving countywide broadband equity more than 5 years ago, and here we are.”

The next step for the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force is to work with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to develop a plan moving forward. In our previous coverage, we highlighted how the task force was starting negotiations with four different ISPs: MEC, Washtenaw Fiber, Comcast, and Charter-Spectrum. The press release announcing the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners vote did not mention which ISPs the task force will move forward with, if not all four. Construction start and completion dates are...

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Posted September 2, 2021 by Maren Machles

As communities across the country are working to bring more affordable, reliable Internet access to their residents, one county in Michigan is gearing up to reach every household within its bounds. On Wednesday night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners held a Ways and Means meeting and unanimously approved a resolution obligating state funding, including American Rescue Plan funds, to several initiatives, with $14.6 million dollars being allocated to broadband infrastructure. 

Although some communities in the county have made progress in recent years in improving connectivity, thousands of households have been left with broadband at basic speeds. While many are slated to receive service via the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, there are still 17 townships scattered across the county with more than 3,000 households that remained unserved. 

Back in May, the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to plug the remaining holes, with the Task Force signalling its general happiness with the responses in the recent meeting. The allocation on Wednesday, if it receives final approval in the near future, will be used to fund the project proposals the Broadband Task Force is currently negotiating with four ISPs: Midwest Energy and Communications, Washtenaw Fiber, Comcast and Charter-Spectrum. 

This vote brings the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force one step closer to its goal of countywide broadband equity. Its $14.6 million dollar plan will either be approved or vetoed by the County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 15. 

The Journey to Countywide Broadband Equity

The Washtenaw County Broadband Subcommittee was formed in 2017 to assess the county’s broadband coverage and make recommendations about how to achieve “countywide broadband equity” by 2022. 

The Subcommittee came out with...

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