Whether you’re responding to emails from your boss, turning in assignments for class, or even attending Zoom parties with socially distant family and friends, the COVID-19 pandemic has made high-speed internet essential for day-to-day life. But what happens to homes who don’t have this luxury-turned-necessity? Do those workers and students get left behind?
Washtenaw County commissioners don’t think so. In September 2021, the county board of commissioners approved a funds proposal to get every home in the county connected to high-speed broadband internet as part of the county's Washtenaw Rescue Plan
. Last month, a home in Lima Township was the first in Washtenaw County to be connected as part of that project.
District 1 Commissioner Jason Maciejewski has been integral to the effort.
“Broadband internet access is a gateway for education, health care, and the economy. It is so much more than just streaming entertainment,” Maciejewski says.
As with any community initiative, the board experienced setbacks.
“One of the challenges the county commission faced in allocating funds for this project was getting the information out into the public that the benefit is countywide,” Maciejewski explains. “Once people understood the broad impact of this project, I believe we gained the momentum needed to make it a reality.”
Maciejewski's heavily rural district, which includes Lima Township, gives him a personal connection to this project.
“For me this project means greater access to a variety of goods and services. However, it is really just a first step because this project gives people access to the infrastructure of the internet," he says. "It does not give everybody the ability to afford to connect through that access. Ultimately we need to find a way where everybody can obtain and utilize broadband-level internet service.”
The project intends to use approximately $15 million in funds to connect over 3,000 Washtenaw homes to quality high-speed broadband internet. More information on this initiative and others that are in the works under the Washtenaw Rescue Plan can be found here
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and long time Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.