High-speed internet is coming to underserved areas, but that will take time

LAKE CITY Lake City resident Kirk Merley is not one to mince words.

He’s 81 and isn’t trying to be morbid when he says his remaining years are numbered. Old age is unbeatable in this regard. So, with that in mind, it’s understandable why he has no patience when it comes to his desire for high-speed internet.

He wants to be able to stream a movie, let his grandchildren play video games, and just be able to enjoy 21st century technology.

So when Charter Spectrum was seen in the area of ​​his home in Crooked Lake in Missaukee County, he got emotional. He thought that the expansion of high-speed Internet currently being pushed across the state and across the country was finally happening.

She quickly discovered, however, that that wasn’t the case, or so she thought.

He thought he needed to reach out to those connected to cable, internet, and landline and mobile phone providers to make his complaint. You’ve believed the adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, the high-speed Internet.

He believed that being on a private road, next to thousands of acres of wooded land, and the fact that the 113 homeowners who are his neighbors do not own the road, but are entitled to use and maintain it, the obstacles were too many. What all of this meant was, in his mind, that even if crews were laying fiber-optic cables near his street, he and his neighbors would be the odd man.

He felt like he was getting an apology from Spectrum until he figured something out. Spectrum wasn’t the company that had the right to deliver high-speed Internet to his street, to him, and to his neighbors.

Merley said he has learned far less. While it may seem like Spectrum is the only player in town when it comes to the process of bringing high-speed Internet to the underserved masses, more companies are trying to deliver the service while also trying to make some money.

Not everything is spectrum. There are other vendors with small pieces, she said.

After starting out in frustration and anger, Merley said she now has understanding. While things move, they move slowly. The company that is working to provide the service to him and his neighbors, Cherry Capital Connection, LLC, is working to provide that service to them, but it won’t be as fast as Spectrum.

Merley said the funding is there and the company is in the planning stages. She also said that he has been told that high-speed Internet will come his way within a year.

It moves but it moves slowly, she said.

In May, a meeting was held at Mackinaw Trail Middle School as part of an ongoing effort by the state to get public input regarding the challenges they face in getting Internet service. In addition to availability and affordability, other concerns included access to Internet-ready devices, being technically savvy enough to use them if access and devices were available, and being aware of what was available locally .

The most talked about issues were the lack of infrastructure in Northern Michigan, followed by the cost associated with installing or accessing the Internet. Some in attendance also wondered if this would be another case of hard work for little results.

While a timeline wasn’t concrete in May, Allie Herkenroder, director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for Digital Equity at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said the Northern Michigan region and every region in the state would have access to the service as part of this unprecedented funding through the Digital Equity Act.

He said one goal of Michigan’s high-speed internet is universal availability, which literally means having it available everywhere across the state. He also said that with funding from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, which is where the dollars to bring this Internet access to all parts of the state come from, there are three priorities for funding.

These included unserved areas, underserved areas, and community anchor institutions such as hospitals, government buildings, libraries, and schools.

Since January, the Michigan High-Speed ​​Internet Office has been reaching out to Michigan residents for ideas on how best to spend a $1.6 billion federal investment to expand high-speed Internet service with the ultimate goal of achieve digital equity statewide.

May’s Cadillac event was part of the MI Connected Future Tour and the penultimate stop in Region 2 of the state. The data collected from these public forums is calculated and analyzed, and a draft plan will be developed.

At the time of the meeting, Herkenroder said she and others would again be traveling to hold public meetings for people to review and provide input on the draft plan. While this was originally slated for June, Herkenroder said people should look for updates from the Michigan High Speed ​​Internet office in early July. She added that there are many moving parts to this process.

To find out which companies may be responsible for installing high-speed Internet in underserved areas of the state, including here in the Cadillac area, check out the FCC’s Fund for Rural Digital Opportunity Auction Details Map.

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