By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), representative of the 7th Congressional District, and Brendan Carr, one of four Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission hosted a community discussion on May 2 in Chelsea, MI.
Carr was in the state visiting an autonomous vehicles facility and made a tour of stops around metro Detroit to focus on broadband deployment and digital opportunity in smaller communities.
In addition to Walberg and Carr, Peter Feeney (Chelsea City Council), Bob Hance (CEO of Midwest Energy and Communications), Dr. Julie Helber (Superintendent of Chelsea School District), Monica Monsma (Executive Director of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce), Mike Osborne (COO of AcenTek), and Peter Psarouthakis (Supervisor of Sharon Township) were on the panel discussing issues of broadband deployment and what they see.
Carr talked about 5G and how that looks to be the next generation of wireless service, a necessary upgrade to keep up with technological innovations. He said the FCC was focused on getting 5G up in the United States as the race to have it first is happening around the world.
He touched upon the fact that rural broadband was an important topic, one the FCC was focused upon, and that funding and regulatory reform was key to broadband.
Regulatory red tape led to costly delays, delays that could be cut, according to Carr. Hance echoed those sentiments, saying his company went through the hoops but that there was a lot of unnecessary hoop-jumping in the first place.
Another subject Hance brought up was that the FCC needed to address the map of served and underserved areas. He claimed that it was nowhere close to accurate, a sentiment that others on the panel agreed with.
Carr listened to each members of the panel in terms of what broadband development meant for their communities as well as what they were experiencing, whether positive or negative, with the issue.
Osborne, who’s company provides broadband to the west side of the state and two other states in rural areas, talked about the cost and importance of broadband for smaller communities. Osborne stated that broadband was the future for business and homes, complimenting the commissioner on having something similar to a model based platform.
Psarouthakis talked about what the impact an upcoming May 8 Broadband special proposal vote was having on Sharon Township. Psarouthakis has been the supervisor of Sharon Township for five years and he said the number one complaint he heard was the lack of broadband. Issues in the township ranged from school issues to people working from home. He also asked Carr if he supported local communities doing what Sharon is doing, taking it upon themselves to do something. Carr deferred, saying it’s important to acknowledge that each municipality is different.
Feeny touched on Lyndon Township passing a millage pertaining to broadband and how that community had identified it as an economic driver. Feeny talked about younger families and professionals not moving to the area because of the lack of broadband.
Helber touched on the fact that many families had no access to internet. Chelsea Schools serves 2,450 students over 120 square miles. Chelsea was one of the first districts with a one to one program, grades K-12 were provided with iPads. Helber mentioned that innovation was difficult because some of the students didn’t have access to internet. Options have ranged from looking at millages, installing internet on the buses, to the local library renting out hotspots. Helber talked about wanting to innovate and be on the cutting edge with equity and access for students.
A question and answer opportunity near the end of the roundtable let citizens voice their thoughts on the matter.