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Michigan Establishes High-Speed Internet Office, Underscores Value of Affordable Broadband to Rural, Urban Michiganders

MIHI Office announcement June 2, 2021. Photo: Michigan Agri-Business Association

Michigan is taking further steps to bring affordable broadband access to more Michiganders. Last week, Gov. Whitmer established the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI).

“The goal of this office is to align and coordinate our state government’s efforts on tackling the major challenge we face with regard to access, availability and affordability of high-speed internet connections,” said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA). “That’s an issue that is important for every family and every business in our state, whether they’re in our biggest cities or our smallest towns. [It’s] certainly a relevant issue for agriculture, rural Michigan and small towns that too often face unreliable, unaffordable, or unavailable high-speed internet access.”

Lippstreu attended the event announcement on Wednesday. The last year of the pandemic has demonstrated the inequities of not having proper internet access.

“In too many rural families—people who were trying to compete in a global marketplace, kids who are trying to do remote education, people who are trying to advance their careers or do different career training—if they didn’t have high-speed internet during the pandemic, there weren’t other options,” he said.

Lippstreu added that the creation of the MIHI office is a demonstration to rural Michigan the state government is taking high speed internet seriously.

“The different departments of state government that are working on this issue are going to be more aligned, working together and talking—which doesn’t always happen in government—to try and develop and deploy solutions as quickly as possible for people across our state,” he said.

It’s not just rural areas that have faced barriers with access to internet. Digital literacy, affordability, or not fully leveraging internet connections have impacted Michiganders as well. Lippstreu said this access is essential for everyone moving forward.

“To be able to compete in the 21st century, we have to be able to connect; to have quality of life in our rural communities; to be able to access telemedicine and telemental health services; to be able to access remote career opportunities; to be able to advance the education, not just of our kids, but adults who might be looking for career advancement or a career change. We have to have high-speed internet.”

In a statement, Gov. Whitmer said the following:

“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. A fully connected Michigan is essential for our state to reach its economic potential in the 21st century global economy.”