BATTLE CREEK—Calhoun County is seeking resident participation in a new survey to encourage faster, more affordable broadband internet service for the county.
The survey grew out of the efforts of Mac McCullough, a librarian at Battle Creek’s Willard Library, during the pandemic. McCullough saw how lack of access to the Internet impacted patrons who typically used the library to conduct business online. With others who recognized this need, he developed the Digital Equity Coalition, which raised the issue at various meetings and researched broadband efforts globally.
“What we found was universal recognition that this is an issue that we need to address for our residents and also for the economic opportunities that broadband access brings,” he said.
In May, the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners established the Broadband Task Force, an 11-member advisory committee, and named McCullough as its chair. County Administration and its communications division are staffing the Task Force. For more information about the Calhoun County Broadband Task Force, including its membership, please visit calhouncountymi.gov/broadband.
Accurate and detailed data demonstrating the gaps in Internet coverage is necessary in order to satisfy state laws outlining the process for local governments to work with the private sector to provide internet services. This information will also be used to request state and federal funding for building out broadband infrastructure.
To obtain the needed Internet coverage data, Calhoun County is contracting with Merit Network Inc. to seek input from all county residents, in the form of a survey. Calhoun County residents can access this survey through September by visiting MichiganMoonshot.org/Calhoun.
In some parts of the county, high-speed internet is not available. The survey developed by Merit Network will identify those areas. It is available in formats including online digital surveys, paper surveys by request and mobile phone text messaging. It is being conducted through a partnership with the Michigan Moonshot initiative, which aims to bridge the digital divide in Michigan.
The survey has been paid for entirely by community organizations that recognized the importance for all residents to have access to affordable, high-speed internet. Those organizations include Albion College, Kellogg Community College, the Calhoun County Intermediate School District, Battle Creek Unlimited, the Battle Creek Community Foundation, and the Public Health Department CARES Funding.
Information gathered will ensure individual privacy and will only be used to support broadband Internet expansion efforts in Calhoun County, and the task force hopes to complete this objective by 2024.