On this episode of Connected Nation, we return to Michigan for part two of our look at the MI Connected Future Tour. It’s an ambitious 40-stop listening tour being conducted by the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, which is developing a five-year internet connectivity plan for the state.
In part two, you’ll hear directly from, local residents, business owners, school leaders, internet service providers, and others whose opinions are helping to shape that plan.
MI Connected Future Tour Schedule - https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/mihi/miconnectedfuture/mi-connected-future-tour-schedule
Michigan High-Speed Internet Office - https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/mihi
Part 1 - On the road with MIHI: 40 stops, thousands of miles, hundreds of opinions
Jessica Denson, Host (00:07):
This is Connect to Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods.
On today's podcast, we returned Michigan for part two of our look at the Michigan Connected Future Tour. It's an ambitious 40 stop listening tour being conducted by the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office. Also called MIHI, which is now developing a five year internet connectivity plan for the state.
Today you'll hear from local stakeholders whose opinions are helping to shape that plan. I'm Jessica Denson and this is Connected Nation.
I'm Jessica Denson. I've been on the road following the My High Listening tour. Today's listening session is being held at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, which is about a half an hour west of Detroit.
Jessica Robinson, Digital Equity Manager, MIHI (01:01):
And again, um, I think that's another thing that we learned from covid. But even before, you know, what access do you have to a device? Um, how much of a device and then can you afford it? And then is the, um, internet or connectivity available for you as well? So that's a very good comment as well.
Jessica Denson, Host (01:18):
About 60 or so people of all ages, ethnicities and genders have gathered in a conference room, including Leah Skylar Dobson, who stopped to chat with me about why internet connectivity is an important issue to
Leah Skylar Dobson (01:31):
Her. I'm a Ipsy City resident and I am currently the legislative director for our newly elected state representative, representative Jimmy Wilson, Jr.
Jessica Denson, Host (01:39):
And tell me a little bit about why you felt it was important to be here, um, during this listening tour.
Leah Skylar Dobson (01:44):
Yeah, definitely. Um, so the, our district is Ipsy City, Ipsy Township and a little part of Superior in Pittsfield. And so availability and affordability as well as device access is kind of what we hear a lot. Um, you know, there is a high portion of low income individuals that win covid hit we're completely cut off. They were not able to fill out the unemployment, they were not able to get their kids online. And uh, someone in this room mentioned today, you know, people going to like the McDonald's parking lot that was happening here in Wasaw. So, um, when we got the in foundation for this event, myself and Rep Wilson were like, we need to know what this program is cuz we really wanna get the information out to our constituents so that they do have some hope this is coming. Um, but we also wanna make sure that we are in the room making sure, like we brought up today, that you don't see those low income working class single moms and their teenage kids in this room today, cuz it's a middle of the day with Thursday. So we wanna make sure we're here in the space bringing those stories that we heard on doors that we're hearing in our office and we wanna make sure we bring all of our Michiganders online and interconnected with each other.
Jessica Denson, Host (02:47):
Do you feel really good about today's conversation? Did you feel like some those important points were brought up, uh, discussed? Did you get some answers or are you just looking forward to the plan that's coming out?
Leah Skylar Dobson (02:57):
I think that there were some points that were brought up. A lot of similar stories in here. So it's definitely what is happening in Michigan. I did like the conversation about the regulation side and coming from the legislature, I'm pretty interested to take that discussion back and see what some other people think about that. Um, because it is kind of frustrating when these companies are in these private sectors, can just kind of do what they want and like they were telling, they just stop and they don't continue. They ignore the rest of the community. So some points of discussion I think we're all curious about, but it does sound like they have a very good solid timeframe plan. Um, I would like to see them be promoting this not just digitally cuz it's weird to reach people about digital issues digitally.
Jessica Denson, Host (03:34):
What would you like to see come out of this down the road in five, the five year plan and, and everything's great. What would you like to
Round table discussion - random speakers (03:41):
Leah Skylar Dobson (03:42):
I think the pie in the sky is we have this as a public entity and we have free public internet that's reliable and high speed for everyone. That's kind of the pie in the sky, right? Let's at least get everyone onboarded connected and there's some device resources and some training resources into their hands. My grandparents have no idea how to access this, you know, and then my young nieces and nephews don't have access to the devices cuz of the income. So I'd like to see us expand that access with those two physical things. And then let's just get everyone connected. Let's bring them on. Let's not hopefully have another situation where our students are falling behind and our young adults can't access like unemployment. Heaven forbid another emergency happened. Let's get everyone online. Let's get some training and devices in there, but ha pie in the sky. Public entity free internet. For all
Jessica Denson, Host (04:26):
The team leading this listening tour. Ask attendees at each stop to rank what internet connectivity issues trouble them the most by placing colored round stickers or dots on boards that say things like affordability and accessibility. Then these local residents, business owners, internet service providers and others are broken up into groups to discuss issues they ranked as most critical and to find possible solutions. One such group allowed me to record as they examine the issue of accessibility
Round table discussion - random speakers (04:57):
And government intervention to require cooperation. Yeah. And that's challenge development. That's a better way of saying what I was trying to say. We need to coordinate our resources so we're not duplicating. And now I am, uh, I'm gonna just add a little piece.
I think it's interesting that you all are talking about fiber because I was just saying before we get split up that, um, I think one of the most important things about our broadband is that we have to look futuristic and it should be underground, it should not be overhead wires. I think that if there's too much, um, there's too much, um, too many problems with overhead. When it's underground, you have less interference. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> with wind, ice, weather, all of that, right?
Yep. Um, it's lower cost of maintenance too, when you don't have to trim a tree. It, I mean, now you might have to spend some money up front, but you get the money back. Yes. You sometimes it, you know, you spend money to make money. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but yes, I, um, and I'm saying that as somebody that lives on a property where I'm gonna talk to you later correctly, <laugh>, there's an easement that I was not made aware of by at and t where I just have these random men coming into my backyard. <laugh> like, what is that? And they have a right to do that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but nobody told me <laugh>. Sorry
Round table discussion - random speakers (06:27):
Terry, I will tell you, I I had the same thing. Um, my neighbor was doing some remodeling and I, one day I came home and they were digging my yard up cuz he was getting his um
Round table discussion - random speakers (06:37):
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. But they didn't leave you? No. Ask me. It was okay.
Round table discussion - random speakers (06:40):
I didn't realize there was a utility easement on that part of the lawn.
Round table discussion - random speakers (06:44):
Round table discussion - random speakers (06:45):
I'm not sure where it fits on your pages. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I would like to see more accountability to the service providers. And as I was telling Ms. Light Spectrum Charter will tell you they provide services to our street. They do not.
Round table discussion - random speakers (07:03):
I mean, uh, in, in northern Michigan, they'll tell you that, you know, 5G home internet is available from T-Mobile and yet you look at their, you put your address in there and it's, it's not
Round table discussion - random speakers (07:14):
Round table discussion - random speakers (07:15):
Yeah. Well, and you mentioned, um, you can dispute those, um, uh, maps, the FCC maps, it helps with, uh, grant funding because if someone says they serve it, then there's no money available. Um, and many times they don't truly know because they have a heat map or they have an area that's on an edge that to a area they do service. So, um, if you can let 'em know, it helps make the maps.
Round table discussion - random speakers (07:41):
When I went to tier one in Jackson that my high two in Jackson, they, um, they had mentioned that they had, they had challenged like over a hundred thousand locations, right, in Michigan.
Round table discussion - random speakers (07:51):
Yeah. Yeah. I challenged my location with T-Mobile and T-Mobile came back and said, no, we served the area. I just sent 'em a copy of their own map. Right. And so they didn't have service.
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:00):
I don't want to pick, I'm not picking on, please, please, please. The smaller companies have said to me when I've asked them, yes, we can provide this service to you, but we don't own the trunk lines. So when there is a problem, they're still at the mercy of the owner of the trunk line. Sure. In order to sort of fix your service or whatever. And I, and I, what I said to them was, well, why should I do business with you then? Why do I wanna go with a smaller company if you're still at the mercy at a bigger company? It's
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:33):
The, the answer to that is open access.
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:36):
You said open
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:37):
Access. Open access. The trunk lines shouldn't be owned by, I mean, are the highways owned by Federal Express and they stop ups from driving on the highways.
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:50):
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:52):
That allows for competition.
Round table discussion - random speakers (08:54):
So let me ask this cause we got a ton of stuff on question too. I, I need you to, to help me, um, sort of document the impact. So financial, personally, I work with special needs students. I would not do when you could not work with I left my job. Okay. Loss of loss, loss of employment income. What about medical issues? Oh, that we can, because you of them now wants you to, they want you to do all the work. Yeah. You can't do telehealth. They want you to have doctor's appointments. You can't do any telehealth. Yeah. Yeah. Right.
Round table discussion - random speakers (09:33):
One of the things I, I think that this program should help to focus on, it should focus on if it's not, is encouraging adoption, you know, in, in places where the internet is available, uh, amongst,
From my perspective in, in urban centers because there's lots of, there's lots of, uh, households that are renters and they tend to be transient. Or if you're in the foster care system, your life is transient. And so you're not at a place where you can subscribe to a service. Correct. If it's there. And so you might be at your aunt's house this week and at your grandma's house next week you're talking living with an older brothers access. Like, and so that type of person can't, is not in a household where you can subscribe to a monthly service. So what solutions, what broadband solutions and those kids fall through the cracks. So, so they're only internet is, I started
Round table discussion - random speakers (10:34):
Round table discussion - random speakers (10:37):
In that fits like the, the renter economy and the transient that addresses the transient consumer economy.
Round table discussion - random speakers (10:45):
I could not work, I could not live somewhere that there wasn't high speed here. Not so it governs where I live. And that's, that's not such a problem for me, but many, it is. Um, they have to live in places that cost more, the higher cost of living, um, because they need that internet access. So I think it affects housing where you live, you know, the quality of life
Jessica Robinson, Digital Equity Manager, MIHI (11:09):
And give yourselves a hand around a club Pat on back for participating. Thank you so, so much. This, this content and what you all provided this content for us to use is really gonna be helpful. Um, as we, you know, move forward with our work
Jessica Denson, Host (11:24):
At this recording. The listening tour is about halfway complete with its last stop plan for May 18th in Waters Meet Michigan. Again, the feedback and input gathered from these listening sessions will be incorporated and considered as the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office works to develop a five year connectivity plan for the state for more details or to get materials to facilitate your own community meeting, see the links in the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect to nation.org. Our look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora or Spotify.