Michigan Says Broadband Champions are Essential for Its Broadband Deployment


Broadband champions leverage strategic communication to educate local decision-makers.

Michigan Says Broadband Champions are Essential for Its Broadband Deployment Photo of Barb Fuller, former chair of Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force on May 22

May 29, 2024 – Michigan attributed its success in broadband investments to broadband champions who demonstrate that personal relationships, strategic communication, and data-driven advocacy are essential for advancing broadband initiatives in a virtual seminar May 22. 

Barb Fuller, former chair of the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, leveraged her political campaign background to set clear goals for allocating funds to broadband projects from the county board of commissioners. “My communication was based on relationships cultivated over years, talking with them directly, bringing them along through the whole process with respect to need and value for the people that live here,” she said. 

Of the $72 million awarded to Michigan through the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill intended to counteract economic consequences of COVID, $14.6 million is allocated toward broadband infrastructure investment, to the credit of broadband champions in the state.

“We had to convince our county board of commissioners to take money out of the over $72 million they received through ARPA and put it towards broadband,” said Fuller. “Ultimately, they committed $14.6 million to make the project work, and we are in the midst of deployment countywide by the end of 2026.”

With these funds, Fuller said that she expects all residents in Washtenaw County to have high-quality, affordable broadband by early 2025.

Jason Kronemeyer, director of technology at Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District, studied the link between connectivity and student performance in 15 rural school districts. The study revealed that students without home internet connection earned half a letter grade lower on average, had lower grades on standardized tests, and showed less intention to pursue higher education.

His study not only helped local decision-makers and communities understand the factors contributing to the digital divide but also educated them on the importance of infrastructure for economic development.

Michigan representatives emphasized that broadband champions’ focused efforts, community data collection, and collaboration can significantly advance broadband accessibility. This effort is leading to the successful allocation of $14.6 million in ARPA funds for broadband in the state.