The federal government is using more of your tax payments to help cover the cost of expanding broadband internet coverage to underserved areas in Michigan. In this latest round of grant funding, $3.3 million is being allocated by the Agriculture Department to bring broadband coverage to dozens of isolated areas in Kalamazoo, Van Buren, and Allegan Counties. The Department is completing the program funding with a loan of over $3 million to Southwest Michigan Communications, Inc.

The project involves getting high speed linked up to more than 3 thousand people in the three counties, including  40 farms, and 25 businesses. It’s all part of what the government calls the ReConnect program. The spending was included in a budget bill that got bipartisan support from federal lawmakers nationwide in order to get final approval.

Michigan 6th District Republican Congressman Fred Upton joined Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Perdue making the announcement about the broadband effort in the area. “I was with students in March when they heard their classes would go all virtual, and one of them turned to me and said that they don’t have access to internet at home. It’s 2020 – that needs to change,” Upton said. “Too many families – especially in rural areas like here in southwest Michigan – lack access to reliable, high-speed internet. Especially as many of us work, take classes, and utilize telehealth services from home, we need to ensure all families have access to broadband service. Today’s announcement is a huge step as we look to close the digital divide in southwest Michigan.”

The new announcement is part of the second round of the program. In round one, the Agriculture Department invested $698 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to rural areas across the nation. That included about 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in 33 states. Many of those in round one were here in Michigan.

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