A Big Development in Rural Broadband for Western Washtenaw

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By Doug Marrin

County Commissioner Jason Maciejewski shared some very exciting at the Dexter Forum on December 19, 2020, regarding rural internet service.

Through the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a grant has been awarded to internet service providers to bring broadband service to rural areas in western Washtenaw County.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a Federal Communications Commission program designed to dramatically reduce the digital deserts, areas without adequate internet service, across the U.S. by investing billions of dollars in the form of grants for the construction of rural broadband networks.

The Federal Government has allocated $20.4 billion for the program, which will be awarded over ten years through an auction process to winning internet providers.

On Thursday, December 17, winning bids for western Washtenaw were announced.

“There was a bid put in for substantial pieces of Western Washtenaw County that don't have internet service,” Maciejewski told the Forum. “The auction result was that these bidders have been awarded a grant to bring a broadband level internet service to many of our unserved areas over the next seven years.”

That comes as good news for many families sitting in their cars in library, school, and town hall parking lots in order for the kids to get their homework done.

“And if the numbers are correct, eighty percent of the people who currently do not have broadband service in western Washtenaw County will get it through this opportunity,” said Maciejewski.

“We won’t find out who these internet providers are until mid-February,” he added.

If the program goes according to plan, the digital divide in the U.S. could be dramatically closed, with the readily available broadband service significantly impacting the country’s economy, culture, and lives of its citizens.

“It’s a major, major development in terms of bringing broadband internet to the county,” says Maciejewski.

Photo: Dexter District Library is one of several public hotspots in the area available for folks without adequate internet service. Photo by Doug Marrin

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