High-speed Internet on the way to rural Michigan

LANSING, Michigan (WLNS) — Faster internet will soon spread across the state.

Millions of dollars in grant money will go toward Michigan State University’s partnership with an Internet company to build infrastructure that enables faster Internet access in low-service homes.

MSU is getting $10.5 million dollars in federal money in partnership with The Merit Network to build better infrastructure through a program called Moon-Light.

Soon, Michiganders will have faster internet from the comfort of their homes, especially in communities where access is needed most.

The Biden administration allocated the funds to upgrade infrastructure throughout Michigan, and the pandemic was one of the reasons why.

“We had families trying to work from home, and at the same time, there were students in those homes taking courses, and it really highlighted the problem that poor infrastructure does to the people of Michigan,” said Merit CEO Joe Sawasky.

Those involved say this will help children, home workers and people in need of telecare, especially in disadvantaged communities.

“Do you think how easy it is for you to apply if you don’t have internet right now? said MSU Vice President for Administrations Melissa Woo. “And even filling out an application form often requires broadband internet.”

A Pen and Paper study found that more than 3,000 students aged 13 and older in 21 rural schools have reduced digital skills due to the lack of internet. Something Melissa Woo says will now make a difference to at least 17,000 households in our state.

“For children, it can now teach them the digital literacy skills they need to become truly great workers in the future, empowering them to take full advantage of our digital society,” Woo said.

All of this will be accomplished through something the team is building, the Middle Mile. This gives people in rural areas access to a faster broadband internet connection.

“Moon-Light is like the highway that will carry you long distances,” said Charlotte Bewersdorff, who works in Government Relations for The Merit Network. “Maybe if you were going from Lansing to Traverse City, you would take the highway verses by taking the side roads, so you can essentially think of the Middle Mile as a highway for fast connectivity.”

Officials from MSU and Merit say this would not have been possible without their ability to work together.

“Universities have such an ability and capacity to improve infrastructure, learning, workforce and development issues, so we’re very happy with the partnership,” said Sawasky.

Those involved in this effort say the Middle Mile will take 12 months to complete. This is expected to be sometime next year.

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