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December 17, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
Lisa Moutinho – Washtenaw County Public Information Officer
Staff Support to Broadband Task Force
734.222.6731 or [email protected]
WASHTENAW COUNTY BROADBAND TASK FORCE SHARES NEWS OF FEDERAL FUNDING FOR SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF THE COUNTY’S RURAL AREAS
ANN ARBOR, MI – At their meeting this morning, Washtenaw County’s Broadband Task Force, a group convened by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners to achieve countywide broadband equity by 2022, shared the news of major federal broadband funding for rural Washtenaw County.
Chair of the Task Force and Sharon Township resident Barb Fuller stated the following in her opening remarks, “The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) yielded some favorable results for Washtenaw County. The BBTF is guardedly excited about the announcement. While the RDOF map indicates a large portion of the under and unserved areas will be addressed, we know that there are areas that will not be. The BBTF will be strategizing about how to reach those premises to achieve our goal of true countywide digital accessibility.”
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a federal broadband grant program that offers $9.2 billion in funding to bring digital connectivity to more than 10 million Americans. In Michigan, thirteen internet providers could receive a total of $362,985,055.60 over 10 years to serve 249,263 locations with a minimum connectivity speed of 25/3 Mbps. Funding recipients must meet periodic buildout requirements that will require them to reach all assigned locations by the end of the sixth year with intermediate buildout milestones along the way. The providers that won the funding will need to submit additional financial, engineering, and planning documentation. Once the documents are submitted to the FCC, the task force plans to engage with the providers to learn more about their buildout schedule and future plans. The task force will continue its work to reach out to potential internet service providers and explore ways to extend connectivity to all County residents.
State Representative Donna Lasinski, representing the majority of Western and Northern Washtenaw County, has been a champion of rural broadband expansion since she took office. Lasinski states, “The COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight on the disparities caused by a lack of internet access – disparities that have held our communities back for over a decade. Expanding internet access is critical to the future of our local community’s and our state’s economy. These funds are welcomed news and I look forward to participating with local officials to smooth implementation.”
Washtenaw County Commissioners Shannon Beeman and Jason Maciejewski, BBTF members representing the rural communities most impacted by the lack of internet connectivity, shared their reaction to the news. Commissioner Beeman states, “We are excited to learn that in the not too distant future many of our rural residents will have the opportunity to participate in remote learning, operate small businesses, conduct financial transactions and utilize telemedicine, all from the comfort of their homes. This digital connectivity will help close the digital divide that currently exists and offer an overall better quality of life for our rural neighbors.”
“As we have experienced during the pandemic, Broadband internet access is an essential part of everyday life. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund project is a major step toward achieving access for all of Washtenaw County,” said Commissioner Maciejewski. “More of our kids will have access to educational resources at home, more people will be able to work remotely, and tele-health services will become a realistic choice.” “I look forward to working with the RDOF recipients on this significant broadband expansion in our county.”
The Broadband Task Force meets monthly, on the third Thursday at 8:00 a.m. Due to COVID safety concerns, the group is utilizing Zoom, a digital platform, for their meetings. You may find information about their work and links to their meetings here: https://www.washtenaw.org/2867/Broadband-Task-Force