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MSU and nonprofit receive $10.5M to improve internet connectivity in Michigan

Multiple ethernet internet cords connected to an internet router.
Thomas Jensen
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MSU will collaborate with a Michigan-based nonprofit to improve internet access.

A $10.5 million grant from the federal government aims to improve internet access for some of Michigan’s rural communities.

Michigan State University and Ann Arbor-based nonprofit Merit Network received the funding. The money will go towards enhancing broadband internet access in underserved areas.

Nearly 60% of households in Michigan struggle to receive fast internet, according to Merit spokesperson Pierrette Dagg. She says lack of internet access can be tied to poor health outcomes.

"So, lower quality of life, lower health, lower life expectancy, certainly, civic and democratic participation is lower," she said.

Dagg says their plan is to increase connection by using an open access network approach instead of a closed infrastructure environment. In the latter, individual internet service providers use their own lines to provide access.

“Whereas an open access network model, there was one place to connect to, so there'd be like one road and then multiple internet service providers can use that same existing infrastructure," she added.

The funds from the project come from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Infrastructure Program.

Melissa Woo, Executive Vice President for Administration and Chief Information officer at MSU, says the program allows marginalized communities to be better connected.

“This solution enables equal and open access to broadband services to all Michiganders and can be leveraged to deliver education, healthcare and employment services.”

The project is expected to be completed in the next year.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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