DETROIT (WXYZ) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer took action Wednesday that she says will help set the state up to bridge the digital divide.
The governor says about 865,000 households in Michigan are not connected.
“I didn’t realize how important it was until this year,” said Zahria Liggans, an ambitious student at Cass Tech High School about to graduate.
Liggans says a lack of reliable high-speed internet has made preparing for college during a pandemic a challenge.
“I am very nervous that I kind of missed out on a lot that I could have gained as well this year, in terms of research and everything,” said Liggans.
“I got way behind. I was on the verge of failing but my teachers worked with me and I am now passing,” said William Shelman, a senior at Cody High School.
They shared their story at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan location on Tireman in Detroit.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a directive establishing the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office.
“One in four Michigan families do not have a connection that meets their needs and that is not acceptable,” said Whitmer.
The office aims to bring together people in different branches of government working to expand internet access, work on public-private partnerships, and ensure that Michigan is accessing all the federal dollars available for expanding internet access.
“Right now we have a generational opportunity to make a tremendous difference thanks to the federal funds we have received and the budget surplus we are all working with,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan).
“This office represents an opportunity for Michigan to take advantage of the biggest opportunity to expand access to the internet since the internet was invented,” said Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist (D-Michigan).
Michigan has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that leaders say will be used to expand internet everywhere from urban communities to rural communities helping farmers use technology to grow crops.
“Using modern technology our farmers are able to bolster their production and produce more food,” said Chuck Lipstreu, Michigan Agri-Business Association President.
The office will also aim to make the internet more affordable.
While discussing affordability Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist encouraged Michiganders to apply for federal funds to help with internet costs available in response to the pandemic. You can learn more at https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.