The following provides examples of communities that have created broadband teams and have organized to improve technology access, adoption, and use.[one-half-first]
St. Clair County, Michigan: Contact Name and Information:
The St. Clair County Broadband Committee was formed back in 2012, led by the County Planning Commission who recognized the need to incorporate broadband planning into their overall county strategy. The Committee was comprised of key leaders from a broad range of organizations and sectors including the county Economic Development Association, Chamber of Commerce, Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA), St. Clair Community College, Port Huron Hospital, county and municipal government, private businesses and several local broadband providers. As with similar broadband committees in other communities, this forum became the first time that leaders from diverse sectors were assembled to work toward a common cause – better broadband service. Since the formation of the St. Clair County Broadband Committee via their kickoff meeting (facilitated by Connect Michigan), the Committee has surveyed its residents and businesses, completed an assessment of the county’s current broadband environment, developed a Technology Action Plan to address identified concerns and worked with various providers on specific broadband improvements. Now in 2018, the St Clair County Broadband Committee continues to meet on a regular basis to track progress, share broadband news and address new issues as they arise.
Ottawa County, Michigan: Contact Name and Information:
Ottawa County is one of the newest Community Broadband Committees, first convened in June of 2017. While Ottawa County already enjoys some of the best broadband coverage in the state, county leaders recognized that certain areas of the county were unserved or underserved by broadband and affected residents were disadvantaged by that fact. The Ottawa County Broadband Committee then launched an extensive survey campaign (with over 2900 respondents) to identify specific areas in need, then developed their own Technology Action Plan based on these findings. Ottawa County is currently working with municipality leaders and selected broadband providers to define broadband expansion projects to close these gaps.
Allegan County, Michigan: Contact Name and Information:
Allegan County is predominately rural and challenged by a low density of households, making it difficult for broadband providers to justify the cost of extending their networks into these rural areas. In prior years, Allegan County officials had explored the idea of developing a county-wide broadband solution but soon discovered that the scope and complexity of doing so was unmanageable. In December of 2014, several interested townships came together to form a broadband committee to explore solutions on a more local basis. Several townships conducted residential broadband surveys to more accurately define current broadband coverage and gather more information on affordability and internet usage. Various broadband providers have attended Broadband Committee meetings to provide education on technology and discuss their offerings and services. While some broadband expansion has taken place across these townships, discussions continue on how to address remaining unserved and underserved areas.[/one-half-first] [one-half]
Western Washtenaw County, Michigan: Contact Name and Information:
While much of Washtenaw County has good to excellent broadband coverage, much of the western rural part of the county is surprisingly lacking in acceptable broadband service. To help address this need, Connect Michigan was asked to help facilitate an effort to explore potential broadband solutions in the western townships. Local leaders and residents from these townships, along with the Chelsea District Library, came together to discuss their issues and ideas on how to improve coverage. Multiple broadband providers were invited to attend and talk about their challenges in expanding into rural areas. After pursuing many options with minimal success, the Western Washtenaw Broadband Committee embarked on a path to build their own local broadband network by creating the Michigan Broadband Cooperative (MBC), a non-profit to manage this pursuit. In concert with the MBC, one township successfully passed a millage to fund the buildout of a new fiber network for all its residents, with construction to begin in the fall of 2018. Other townships are considering similar plans.
Osceola County, Michigan: Contact Name and Information:
Recognizing that their county was being left behind in regard to internet access and digital literacy, officials in Osceola County, Michigan, knew they needed to spark a change. In 2012, Osceola County began a long journey of ongoing development and cooperation to make a positive change to Internet access, adoption, and use leading to the creation of a community technology action plan in 2016. “We knew we had a problem,” said Dan Massy, Osceola County Community Development Coordinator. “We just didn’t know how to start or where to go.” Massy and Osceola Township Supervisor Paul Brown discussed the unavailability of reliable broadband on a number of occasions. Brown discovered that a neighboring county was working with Connect Michigan to solve similar problems with broadband development. “We both went to their meeting,” said Massy. “We were impressed.” One of the key obstacles to greater access was simply a lack of infrastructure, a problem that could only be solved by ISPs. A county-wide broadband survey, which showed where internet was available and where it was unavailable but desired, made a considerable impact. With this information measured and published, one ISP saw a business opportunity and approached the county about laying more infrastructure.
“For me, it’s a quality of life issue. [Broadband] touches everything, from business to education to healthcare,” said Massy. “Our association with Connect Michigan has given us the resources we didn’t have anywhere else, so we can move forward.” Improvements began slowly, with townships across the county participating and organizations across the state helping. Courtland Consulting conducted seminars to improve digital literacy for residents and businesses, Chemical Bank led classes on cybersecurity, and libraries and chambers of commerce throughout the county introduced online classes for businesses and residents. At the county level, a website redesign provided more functionality and better organization.
Technology Council of West Kentucky (TCWK): http://tcwk.org/
As an example of a regional incorporated organization. The TCWK is a regional team in West Kentucky that as is stated there mission thusly: “to build a unified catalyst for the growth and influence of Western Kentucky’s technology industry focusing on the four pillars of Unifying, Advocating, Growing and Connecting.” TCWK is actively working to bring greater awareness to connectivity and technology, and the impact that it can and is making in the region. They initially gathered as an informal group throughout the region and determined that by creating an organization, they could represent and speak on behalf of the region. The formal structure would help provide a common front in developing and advancing the region. The group identified a small group of individuals to help develop the organization. This group established a structure that consists of a board of directors, executive director, and has a membership structure. The organization has recently expanded their board to ensure a broader representation of the region and the membership continues to grow.[/one-half]
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