$20M in grants available for broadband in underserved areas

LANSING–While much of Michigan has access to high-speed broadband internet service, there are still many rural areas lacking vital connectivity. A new grant program could make it easier to expand internet access to more Michigan families and communities dealing with slow speeds or no connection at all.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) is now accepting applications for the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program. It is offering $20 million in grants to internet service providers (ISPs) looking to expand access in unserved parts of the state.

“Access to high-speed internet is imperative for every Michigander,” said Eric Frederick, executive director of the nonprofit broadband advocacy group Connect Michigan. “The CMIC grant is designed to help ISPs reach areas of the state that would be impossible to connect without additional support. Internet connectivity is necessary for homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and every other sector, allowing our communities to compete in a digital economy.”

Priority will be given to applications that demonstrate collaboration to achieve community investment and economic development goals in the areas impacted. Applicants must also show they have the managerial, financial, and technical abilities to build, operate, and manage a broadband network.

“Access to high-speed internet is a must to compete in today’s society,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a release on her website. “Connecting all Michigan communities with broadband service is about leveling the playing field for every child and small business in the state. Everyone should be able to fully explore their passions and talents, no matter where they live, and not be held back by a lack of infrastructure.”

Providers can apply for up to $5 million per grant and can apply for multiple projects. Applications will be scored on a number of criteria, including number of locations served and at what speed; the impact of the project on various community sectors, including health care, public safety, and agriculture; and the applicant’s readiness to construct the new network.

“Michigan’s leaders are making a significant commitment that will positively impact communities across the state for years to come,” said Tom Ferree, chairman and CEO of Connect Michigan’s parent, Washington, D.C.-based Connected Nation. “The projects that are funded through this program will ultimately improve the quality of life for families and individuals by expanding access to the internet and the resources and opportunities it provides.”

The application window opened Monday, July 1, and closes Friday, Aug. 30. Grant awards are tentatively scheduled to be announced in April 2020, in time for the summer 2020 construction season, and all projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2023.

For more details, visit the CMIC grant page on Michigan.gov or click here to download the grant guidelines and overview.

For more about Connect Michigan, visit connectednation.org/Michigan.

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