BENZIE COUNTY, Mich., Nov. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Benzie County has been discussing the need for broadband expansion since it was incorporated as a key objective in its strategic planning several years ago. This was then followed up by the Economic Development Committee (EDC) incorporating broadband expansion into their own strategic plan as well.
Once incorporated into both strategic plans, the EDC was tasked with this objective. The first step was the establishment of the EDC Broadband Subcommittee (EDC BS). Next, the EDC BS developed a Request For Proposal (RFP) to establish a public/private partnership to work toward this goal. Eclipse Communication was selected through the RFP process and the EDC BS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Eclipse to formally establish this relationship.
As the EDC BS and Eclipse started to work together to expand broadband throughout the county, it became clear that two objectives needed to be resolved in order for this to become a reality:
- Conduct a statistically valid broadband data collection survey that would refute the inaccurate FCC data regarding the availability of high-speed Internet in the county.
- Based upon the survey data, conduct an infrastructure engineering report that would develop a map of Benzie County based upon key data points – topography, existing broadband infrastructure, etc. The engineering report would map out where new broadband infrastructure would need to be developed to serve residents.
Data demonstrating the need for connectivity are necessary in order to satisfy requests to the federal government for funding. To obtain that data, Benzie County contracted with Merit Network, Inc., and is seeking county-wide input from the residents, in the form of a survey.
The survey was developed by Merit Network and will provide accurate data regarding which properties do and do not currently have Internet access in Benzie County. Information gathered will only be used to support broadband Internet expansion efforts and will aid in seeking grant funding to increase broadband availability in Benzie County.
“The EDC Broadband Subcommittee has been working to solve the problem of slow, unreliable and expensive Internet in Benzie County. The answer is broadband, made available to every household. But reliable, honest coverage information does not exist, and this survey is a necessary first step in getting to the bottom of who does not have access,” said Paula Figura, Chair of Benzie County EDC Broadband Subcommittee.
The survey is being conducted through a partnership with the Michigan Moonshot initiative, which aims to bridge the digital divide in Michigan. With the participation of Benzie County residents, these organizations will collect the necessary data to develop a realistic representation of current broadband coverage and speeds. Accurate, unbiased data will assist in drawing necessary state and federal funds to the community.
Residents are being asked to visit MichiganMoonshot.org/BenzieCo to complete the brief survey, whether they pay for Internet access at their property or not. The survey results will provide granular information about residents’ broadband speeds and availability to aid Benzie County in gathering the necessary information for possible broadband expansion.
ABOUT THE MICHIGAN MOONSHOT: The Michigan Moonshot is a collective call to action which aims to bridge the digital divide in Michigan. Stakeholders include Merit Network, the nation’s longest-running research and education network, the Quello Center at Michigan State University and M-Lab, the largest open Internet measurement platform in the world. Learn more about the Michigan Moonshot at Merit.edu/Moonshot.
Paula Figura, Chair of the Broadband Committee
For more information:
SOURCE Merit Network