MARQUETTE, Mich.—Marquette County has become the first “Certified Connected Community” in the Upper Peninsula and 11th in the state. The Marquette County Broadband Initiative (MCBI) team worked with Connect Michigan to identify gaps in the local broadband landscape and establish goals for increasing high-speed Internet access, adoption and use. It achieved the new certification through Connected Nation’s Community Engagement Program.
Regional stakeholders in government, education, medical and business sectors volunteered their expertise and time for the MCBI. They will celebrate the certification and receive a new Technology Action Plan on Friday, Feb. 13, at Northern Michigan University. The event begins at 9 a.m. in the Charcoal Room of the University Center. Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will be the keynote speaker.
Representatives of three community organizations led the MCBI collaboration with Connect Michigan: Robert Eslinger, director of Northern Michigan University’s Center for Rural Community and Economic Development; Caralee Swanberg, director of business development for the Lake Superior Community Partnership; and Thyra Karlstrom, Marquette County senior planner.
“Broadband has been recognized for a long time as something that we need to improve,” said Eslinger. “This recognition demonstrates how a lot of people have been working on the issue in their own ways and really how those small pieces can fit together to make a big difference."
Swanberg added, “Broadband affects every aspect of our business and personal lives, making it a key priority in economic development. This certification is a great honor and tribute to our fantastic partners throughout the county who have been working on this issue for years.”
The new Technology Action Plan sets general community-wide broadband connectivity goals to work toward that will support economic development and residential quality of life. It also provides step-by-step action projects to ensure the goals are met. Marquette County’s top priorities are to improve education through digital learning, establish programs supporting schools’ new technology initiatives, develop a business case for further broadband expansion and promote telemedicine in remote areas of the county.
“Marquette County’s location, size, natural landscape and scattered development pattern make it different from other counties,” said Karlstrom. “Those characteristics are also challenges to increasing high-speed Internet access, adoption and use. Our community has a history of working together to stretch limited resources to their fullest potential. This certification is a symbol of our community's hard work and dedication to improve our future.”
Connect Michigan is the designated entity for broadband mapping and planning in the state. It is a public-private partnership between the Michigan Public Service Commission and Connected Nation to work with local entities toward the goal of increasing broadband service in the state’s underserved areas.