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New map shows progress towards introducing broadband across rural Washtenaw County

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – For the first time, Washtenaw County residents can enter their addresses on an online map to see how and when broadband internet service will reach their homes through a series of programs to connect the county at 100% by 2025.

The map is available online here and shows every occupied parcel in the county, in addition to the coverage areas of five internet service providers contracted to fill rural broadband gaps through three different programs.

Residents can get an estimate of when their property will be serviced via the map, and these completion dates will be updated as projects progress, according to Chris Scharrer, founder and CEO of DCS Technology Design. , the rural broadband company contracted to oversee Washtenaw County’s gap-filling effort.

For now, in many cases the dates shown on the map are a “worst case” scenario showing when a particular project covering a larger area needs to be completed, and homes could be serviced sooner as progress is being made towards that goal, he said. .

His team can update the map live using tablets in the field as inspections take place, Scharrer said.

The county hit a milestone when elected leaders voted last year to dedicate some $14.6 million, much of it in federal COVID relief dollars, to expanding coverage to more than 3,000 homes. underserved by other federal and state grant programs.

Read more: Life in the ‘dead zone’: How thousands of people in Washtenaw County are coping without broadband

Universal broadband access is now fully funded across the county, a significant achievement and the culmination of efforts that took root nearly a decade ago, officials said at a town hall meeting on 26 September on County Broadband Efforts held in Sylvan Township.

“It’s a really good example of putting your tax dollars to work,” said Sue Shink, chairwoman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, at the rally.

County Commissioner Jason Maciejewski, also among those responsible for hosting the meeting, added that Washtenaw County completed its planning early, putting it in a better position as parts of the country compete for limited resources to expand broadband coverage.

These efforts have been in the works for years. Inaccuracies in federal maps, which showed much of the county had high-speed service, led a county broadband task force to collect its own data, putting hard numbers behind what He heard residents.

Scharrer and his company drove about 2,000 miles of county roads two years ago, visually identifying house by house where broadband service was lacking. This search resulted in over 8,000 occupied properties without reliable broadband.

Federal programs like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and state initiatives like Connecting Michigan Communities (CMIC) are helping bring that figure down to zero, alongside the county’s gap-filling initiative using federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

All programs are visualized on the new map, with hatched parcels indicating areas where broadband infrastructure has yet to be built.

The vast majority of the new service, which runs through a handful of different providers also shown on the map, will be fiber-based internet, city hall officials said.

While some programs are still in the engineering phase, others are in the process of being put online.

“There are quite a few new addresses that are being activated,” Scharrer said, pointing to some addresses in Saline and Lodi townships where infrastructure was installed over the summer. “It’s happening as we speak.”

In Lima Township, the first home to be serviced under the county-funded gap-filling project was connected in June through the efforts of Washtenaw Fiber Properties, LLC.

Scio Township resident Jared Mauch founded the local internet service provider with the goal of bringing fiber optic cable to his home, before winning a major county contract to extend his network to a wider area.

Read more: A Michigan man started his own internet service provider. Now he has $2.6 million to bring broadband to neighbors

Scharrer says residents with questions about the map can contact DCS at or post to a new Facebook group for answers.

For many Washtenaw County residents who live on dirt roads or rely on flimsy cellular internet plans, the new map is the first time they’ve gotten information on exactly how their home will be connected, Scharrer said. .

Early signs from the September town hall indicate that is exactly what they want to know.

“When we adjourned, there was still a line at the table up front who wanted to type in her address and see what she said,” Scharrer said.

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