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Michigan to get $250 million for broadband expansion work

(TNS) – Michigan will receive $250.6 million in federal funding for broadband projects that the state estimates will connect 67,857 households and businesses to high-speed internet, covering 23% of locations in the state. state without access to adequate service, officials said.

The funding was part of $435 million announced Thursday for affordable broadband as part of President Joe Biden’s U.S. bailout package passed last year through his Department of Justice Capital Projects Fund. Treasure. The funding amount is based on a formula that takes into account a state’s overall population, as well as subsets of the population that are either rural or at or below 150% of the poverty line, officials said. responsible.

Recent legislation passed under the Biden administration has “raised the bar, correctly, not just for closing the digital divide in libraries or even in school buildings, but for every business and every home,” said Gene Sperling, a native of Michigan, senior White House adviser. and coordinator of the American rescue plan.

“Because, as we have seen so powerfully during the pandemic, this is necessary for both students and parents, not just for convenience, not just for efficiency, but also for economic and educational opportunity. basic.”

The White House said Michigan’s award will fund the state’s Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) program, which is a competitive grant program aimed at providing funding to expand broadband infrastructure and service. to locations that currently do not have access to speeds of at least 100/20 megabits per second (Mbps). Federal funding is intended to pay for the physical infrastructure to physically connect homes to high-speed service, in most cases with fiber optic cable.

“The vision is really that broadband internet is infrastructure. It’s about the future. It’s about opportunity, whether you’re running your business or your farm, or your school or your hospital, or your mental health agency,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said on a White House call. “Whatever you do, high-speed internet isn’t a luxury. It’s part of being able to move forward, achieve success, and have opportunity.”

The plan that Michigan officials submitted to the Treasury Department and approved Thursday represents 100% of the state’s total allocation under the Capital Projects Fund, said Joseph Wender, director of the fund at the Treasury.

“Our goal with the Capital Projects Fund is to make sure families are not only connected to the internet, but that it’s affordable,” U.S. Treasury Director of Collections Jacob Leibenluft told reporters.

To that end, Leibenluft said his department requires all participating service providers to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a rebate of up to $30 per month to eligible households. Experts have estimated that nearly 40% of U.S. households are eligible for the program, which about 493,000 Michigan households have already signed up for, according to the White House.

Coupled with the announcement earlier this year that the Biden administration secured commitments from 20 major internet service providers to offer eligible households high-speed internet packages for up to $30 per month, this means that most eligible households will receive free or close Internet access. to that, officials said.

“In the wealthiest and most productive country in the world, it is obviously unacceptable to see people I represent…especially in the rural areas of our communities, having to park in the parking lot of a McDonald’s to try to make work their Wi-Fi. something as simple as submitting a job application or simply paying their bills online,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township. reliable and fast is important for all aspects of modern life.”

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