Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is applauding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent announcement opening the application window for the Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) grant program to increase broadband availability in underserved areas. The program is offering $20 million in grants to internet service providers that are willing to expand access.
“Access to high-speed internet is a must to compete in today’s society,” said Whitmer. “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.”
According to MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch, farmers rely on the technology to gain efficiencies and implement new environmental stewardship practices.
“Broadband connectivity, which once a luxury, has become a necessity and unfortunately many areas still lack adequate connection speeds,” Vermeesch said. “Producers need the technology to implement precision agriculture techniques and to have reliable access to current markets, enabling them to make more informed business decisions.
“While there are no silver bullets, this grant program is one more opportunity to leverage investment dollars to expand broadband in rural areas."
MFB’s member-developed policy acknowledges the impact broadband access has on the ability of rural residents to compete and participate in the economy. It states, “Access to internet is an important issue for business, agriculture, and academic purposes for rural students. The state of Michigan should address a comprehensive policy for the provision of universal broadband access statewide that is equitable in cost and quality in both rural and urban settings.”
The grant application window will remain open until August 30. Grant awards are tentatively scheduled to be announced in April of 2020, in time for the summer 2020 construction season, and all projects must be completed by September 30, 2023.
Priority will be given to applications that demonstrate collaboration to achieve community investment and economic development goals in the areas impacted.
Complete details including the grant criteria, instructions, application form and more are available through the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.