Michigan Cooperative Bringing Internet to Rural Areas


Much of the conversation about improving Michigan's infrastructure has been focused on the state's roads and water pipes, but Internet access is finally getting some much-needed attention.

Whether we like it or not, high-speed Internet is a modern necessity. And regions like those rural areas in Michigan without reliable Internet are at a distinct economic disadvantage. What's the point in 57.7% of business owners creating new websites if customers can't interact with them?

Now, one southwest Michigan electricity cooperative is building a network to bring faster, more reliable internet service to rural Michigan residents. 

Midwest Energy and Communications is bringing gigabit fiber optic service to its members. Bob Hance, President and CEO of the cooperative, told Michigan radio that the demand for this service has exceeded all expectations.

"We weren't really sure how effective it was going to be," he said. "But now that we have our feet on the ground, it's very clear that not only is it wanted, it's needed."

In some cases, areas the cooperative never expected to contact them reached out for this service. In fact, an industrial park located just outside of Midwest's service area asked to be included in their service plan. Numerous tenants in the area reported that they were considering relocation because of the poor Internet connection.

"We serve probably 80% of the industrial park now with fiber," Hance said.

But Midwest isn't the only cooperative bringing better Internet to rural Michigan. Now, three other cooperatives have started planning their own individual fiber optic networks. In addition, a number of smaller communities have reached out to Midwest and asked the company to manage a fiber optic network for them.

"It's absolutely imperative today," Hance said. "It's an essential service almost as much as electricity is."

Considering that mobile Internet usage now accounts for more than a quarter of total time spent with media, creating equal access is incredibly important. Even businesses are making adjustments to make sure they're being seen through mobile and desktop Internet experiences. In fact, 62% of companies with a website designed specifically for mobile saw increased sales.

According to Publicis' Zenith unit, time spent with mobile Internet will expand 19% this year. And with the number of platforms based largely on mobile use, Internet access will be essential for further growth.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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