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Communities can apply for rural broadband

EDITOR:

We are in the midst of a renaissance in rural Michigan infrastructure investment. Since the invention of the internet, each administration — both state and federal — have promised more resources to help connect rural areas, but it is only now that these promises are being kept.

As a lifelong rural resident active in every level of government, I have never seen a time when more federal resources were being dedicated to building water, sewer, electrical and critical facilities for Michigan’s small towns and villages.

Just in the past year, rural Michigan electric cooperatives have received more than $326 million to improve and expand infrastructure, including upgrades to more than 1,700 miles of power line. Rural communities have also benefitted from investments that leverage technology, expanding access to quality medical care and improving education.

In addition, two cooperatives — Midwest Energy and Great Lakes Energy — have added more than 2,400 miles of fiber for their users by integrating “smart grid” technology and incorporating high-speed internet into existing lines.

Earlier this year, we announced $11.8 million in loans and grants for Barry County Services Company to provide affordable, fiber-based broadband services in rural Barry County. This project will extend broadband availability to 17 farms, 16 businesses and 12,000 residents spread over 127 square miles.

Southwest Michigan Communications Inc. received $10.7 million in loans and grants to extend broadband service in Van Buren and Allegan counties. This project will extend broadband availability to 22 farms, 19 businesses and 7,700 residents spread over 100 square miles. The two projects will bring modern broadband service to nearly 20,000 residents.

This are substantial investments but pale when one considers the resources that are still out there.

That is why it is so important that communities reach out to USDA Rural Development. While the funding cycle varies by program, there is never a bad time to reach out to us so we can help prepare your project’s application. Visit our web site at www.rd.usda.gov/mi or call our main office at 517-324-5190.

Together, we can ensure that USDA investments in rural infrastructure will create jobs, expand economic opportunities and help ensure that rural communities continue to be great places to live, work, start a business and raise a family.

Jason Allen

State director

U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Michigan

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