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The Creation of Michigan High-Speed Internet Office
On June 2, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Directive to expand high-speed internet access for people in Michigan, creating the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI). Its vision was simple - to ensure that "every home and business in Michigan will have access to an affordable, reliable high-speed internet connection that meets their needs."
High-speed internet becoming more of a necessity than ever before in citizens' educational, professional and personal lives played a key factor in the creation of MIHI, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"COVID-19 has only confirmed how the lack of high-speed internet access can cause too many Michiganders to struggle in their ability to engage in online learning, to use telemedicine to seek needed healthcare, to search for a new job or to take advantage of all the online resources," Gov. Whitmer said. "A fully connected Michigan is essential for our state to reach its economic potential in the 21st century global economy."
Over $2.5 billion in potential economic benefit is left unrealized each year due to the digital divide that a lack of high-speed internet access creates, and MIHI will do its best to bridge that gap by coordinating all state, federal, philanthropic and private investments that are made into broadband infrastructure and its utilization.
At the time of MIHI's inception, over 212,000 households in Michigan lacked opportunity to access high-speed internet connection, while another 865,000 homes faced barriers related to affordability, adoption or digital literacy. A lack of high-speed internet has proven to create underlying consequences for citizens and businesses alike.
For example, farmers who gained high-speed internet access experienced an average 6% increase in farm revenue. Individual students with high-speed internet at home, on the other hand, have an overall grade point average of 3.18, as opposed to an average of 2.81 for students with no home access, and just 2.75 for students with only cell phone access.
Those are just a few examples of numerous areas MIHI will benefit, with health outcomes, small businesses, senior citizens, civic engagement, climate change and rural development standing as several others.
"Expanding high-speed internet access and affordability will help ensure that Michigan remains a world leader in innovation," said LEO Director Susan Corbin. "We need to make major investments to support digital inclusion and this office will be focused on leveraging every dollar available through the American Recovery Plan and other federal programs."
Significant steps to expand high-speed internet access were also taken by the Whitmer Administration in October 2020 when the Connecting Michigan Taskforce was created, an interagency working group that has aligned the work being done by state agencies and departments related to high-speed internet access.
Gov. Whitmer also signed into law the Broadband Expansion Act of Michigan that month, which codified the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program. Earlier this year, the Michigan Infrastructure Council launched a "Dig Once" project portal designed for infrastructure asset owners to document infrastructure and utility work, which will help improve coordination and was called for both in the "21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report" and the "Michigan Broadband Roadmap."
As a result of these steps that have been taken during the Whitmer Administration, internet service providers have already secured $363 million through the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction, $12.7 million in grant awards through the state-level Connecting Michigan Communities Grant Program (with additional awards having been announced in June), $32.6 million through the United States Department of Agriculture's Reconnect Program and $4.8 million through the FCC's COVID-19 Telehealth Grant Program.