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Recent News // News Release: St. Clair County Embraces the Connected Community Program

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Group is working to expand affordable broadband coverage to underserved county communities

Port Huron, MI. St. Clair County leaders have enrolled their community in an innovative program that seeks to boost the local economy and quality of life for residents though increased access, adoption, and use of broadband.

Staff from Connect Michigan, the statewide nonprofit promoting broadband expansion, is leading St. Clair County leaders through the steps of the new “Connected” community certification program that offers a comprehensive and localized way for communities to bridge the digital divide impacting many communities. The kickoff planning meeting was held in May at the St. Clair County Administration Building in Port Huron.

St. Clair County is located in eastern lower Michigan on the Lake Huron shoreline and St. Clair River, directly across from Canada. Current broadband availability in the county is below the state average at 88% (768Kbps) and 81% (3Mbps) and well below other southeast Michigan counties in their region. Several smaller communities in the county are struggling with reliable access to broadband, which has prompted strong participation in the new program by local townships and villages.  St. Clair County also is challenged with cellular and wireless interference from Canadian towers, which often results in Canadian surcharges on their monthly bills that need to be reversed.

To take a major step toward increasing broadband availability, officials decided to enroll in the Connected community certification program through Connect Michigan.

“We are excited to partner with Connect Michigan in this comprehensive program,” said Lori Eschenburg, a planner with the Metropolitan Planning Commission and team champion.  “Our goal in St. Clair County is to expand affordable broadband coverage to our underserved communities. Access to affordable broadband service is critical to St. Clair County’s future, with implications for education, public safety, and economic development.” 

The Connected certification program entails building a comprehensive action plan for developing a technology-ready community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment.

Twelve individuals representing the collaborating communities attended the initial kick-off meeting to share their perspectives on why broadband is important and to provide updates on broadband development activities.

Action items identified from the meeting included:

  • Identifying/adding team members
  • Gathering data on existing local public computing centers and digital literacy programs
  • Assessing USDA Community Connect grants for applicability to St. Clair County
  • Conducting a survey of township governments regarding broadband access and speeds
  • Establishing a future meeting schedule
     

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Download the Press Release