Washtenaw County, MI – In September 2021, the Board of Commissioners approved a historic investment for Washtenaw County to become one of the first counties in the state to create a path for every household to access highspeed broadband internet. Last week, the first Washtenaw County household was connected to broadband infrastructure as a result of that investment.
“After years of hard work by commissioners, county staff, and the members of the Broadband Task Force, it is extremely exciting to reach this important milestone,” said Shannon Beeman, Commissioner for District 3. “There is still work to do to ensure broadband is affordable and accessible for all of our residents, but this is a monumental step.”
The first household was connected by Washtenaw Fiber Properties in Lima Township. Washtenaw Fiber Properties is one of four providers selected as part of a competitive request for proposals project in 2021 who will be receiving funding to fully connect Washtenaw County in the coming years.
“I said it when we approved these funds last year and will say it again now: this is a transformational moment for our community,” said Jason Maciejewski, Commissioner for District 1, which includes Lima Township. “Access to reliable broadband internet has become a necessity to access health care, education, and the economy, so seeing this investment begin to come to fruition should give hope to residents across the county.”
According to the County’s Opportunity Index, Lima Township has low Job Access and Education and Training scores. During a robust community feedback process in 2021 related to American Rescue Plan Act investments, which included public comment at Board meetings, in-person and virtual town halls, and more, residents emphasized that the pandemic had only made these issues worse. Lack of internet connectivity made it challenging for residents to participate in a more virtual workforce and for students to get the most out of remote learning.
While the first resident connected lives in Lima Township, residents in every corner of the county will benefit from Washtenaw County’s investment in broadband infrastructure. This investment of approximately $15 million combined county General Fund and federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars. In total, over 3,000 Washtenaw County households will be connected as a result of this investment in the next few years. Connecting Washtenaw County is one of many investments made by the Board of Commissioners using American Rescue Plan funds. Find more information on this and other investments at Washtenaw.org/rescue-plan
“We as a Board have worked hard to ensure that all of our investments prioritize the needs of our community,” said Sue Shink, Commissioner for District 2 and Chair of the Board of Commissioners. “From addressing childcare access to supporting local nonprofits to bridging the digital divide by expanding broadband infrastructure, we look forward to the immediate and long-term positive impact these investments will have on the community.”