Five forums held across Michigan in December and January attracted nearly 500 people from 76 different Michigan counties who met to learn how their communities can work toward the creation of a comprehensive high-speed Internet network.
The forums, sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and facilitated by Merit Network, Inc., were designed to educate communities on the availability and eligible use of planning assistance grants. The grants will help communities develop their own last-mile broadband solutions.
“If there was any doubt about the demand for high-speed Internet access in communities throughout the state, the fact that 76 out of 84 Michigan counties were represented by participants in these forums is an eye-opener,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “These communities are saying that they do not want to be left behind in an increasingly technological economy and society.”
In May 2001, the MEDC introduced its LinkMichigan initiative to address the critical need for high-speed telecommunications access throughout the state.A key component of the plan includes providing regional telecommunications planning assistance grants to enable communities across Michigan to develop local strategies for improving telecommunications services.
“A noteworthy part of the outreach and planning process has been the participation of local businesses as well as local educational and economic development groups,” said Hunt Williams, president of Merit Network. “This broad-based participation indicates the kind of public-private partnerships that are key to the delivery of affordable, high-speed Internet services to citizens and businesses throughout the state.”
The forums informed community groups on the application process, provided technical assistance in developing project proposals, and shared “best practices” from other innovative regions around the country.
A statewide forum was held in East Lansing on December 4.Four other regional forums were conducted in Detroit, Marquette, Roscommon and Grand Rapids.A total of 477 community leaders registered for the events.
While a comprehensive high-speed telecommunications network is beneficial for education, health care and other applications, the MEDC is particularly focused on broadbands’ impact on Michigan businesses.
“High-speed telecommunications connectivity is an essential element for businesses in today’s global economy,” Rothwell notes. “As a leader in the high-tech industry, it is vital for Michigan to have the best broadband infrastructure available for our high-tech companies.”
The MEDC will provide grants only for planning assistance.Additional funding for the telecommunications planning program is available through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.Michigan CDBG funds will be used for projects in eligible local governments, typically non-metropolitan communities under 50,000 in population.MEDC funds will be used for projects in metropolitan communities, which are not eligible to receive Michigan CDBG funds.
The LinkMichigan plan offers recommendations to transform Michigan’s telecommunications infrastructure into one of the most robust and advanced in the nation.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a partnership between the state and local communities, promotes smart economic growth by developing strategies and providing services to create and retain good jobs and a high quality of life.
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