Connected Nation

On the road with MIHI: Tackling the question of affordable access for all

February 27, 2023 Jessica Denson Season 4 Episode 5
Connected Nation
On the road with MIHI: Tackling the question of affordable access for all
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On this episode of Connected Nation, we return to Michigan for part three 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, which is developing a five-year internet connectivity plan for the state.

You'll hear from two retirees about why senior citizens MUST be part of that plan and we’ll “eavesdrop” on the discussion group tasked with tackling affordable access for all.
Related links:
MI Connected Future Tour Schedule -

Michigan High-Speed Internet Office -

Part 1 - On the road with MIHI: 40 stops, thousands of miles, hundreds of opinions
Part 2 - On the road with MIHI: hear from those who will help shape a statewide internet connectivity plan

Jessica Denson, Host (00:04):

This is Connect 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 return to Michigan for part three 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 My High, which is now developing a five-year internet connectivity plan for the state. Today you'll hear from two retirees about why senior citizens must be part of that plan and will eavesdrop, so to speak on the discussion group tasked with tackling affordable access for all. I'm Jessica Denson, and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Denson. I've been on the road following the My Hide Listening Tour. So

Nat sound of listening stop  (00:59):

Thank you guys so much for being here. Give us, hold us around applause for being here.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:04):

Today's listening session is being held in Benton Harbor, which is located in Berrien County. So we're the county covers the far southwest corner of the state, bordering the tip of Indiana and running along the coast of Lake Michigan. Then we'll go ahead and this stop is taking place in a large conference room at Lake Michigan College. That's where I met Carol and John O'Brien.

Carol O'Brien (01:24):

I am here because we don't have internet. We can't get internet. Um, I've called many places and we live out in the country and you can't do a hotspot because we live in the country and we don't have any other options. So I'm here to hear what this organization can do for us, if anything.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:44):

And for you, John, uh, why are you here? Same reason

John O'Brien (01:47):

I've been to other places. In fact, the, uh, license bureau over in Niles told me that whatever I was doing that day, I would not be able to do it in the future unless I'd done it online, because the offices probably wouldn't be here. So you're gonna be forced into it. So,

Jessica Denson, Host (02:06):

So that would affect your business?

John O'Brien (02:08):

No, it was personal. Oh, it was

Jessica Denson, Host (02:10):

Personal. Um, so basically everything's moving online and, and if you don't have access, you're left out. Exactly. I think that's, the pandemic kind of showed that to everyone. Yes. Um, do you have any children? Do you live a alone or what's your situation is? You said it was a farm? Yes.

Carol O'Brien (02:24):

Uh, no children that live at home, but yeah, it's just us, two retired people. But you cannot do anything unless it's online. And that's what's frustrating. Everybody else has. We can put a man on the moon, but we can't get internet to rural areas, which I think is crazy. So, yes.

Jessica Denson, Host (02:40):

Uh, tell me a little bit about this area of Michigan that we're in. If, for somebody who's never been here, can you share a little bit more about why you live here? Why it's a great place to be? Um, what there is to do, why people come here and stay?

John O'Brien (02:55):

Uh, it's a nice place to be, to live. Um, you have variety of, um, livestock growing in the area. Uh, poultry in the area, um, fruit and vegetables in the area. We have a little bit of everything. Um, it's just really nice, but we need to modernize with the internet and stuff like that. Otherwise,

Jessica Denson, Host (03:18):

Is this an area with some tourism? I, I noticed today it's February day, but it's a really nice day. A little windy, but very warm and beautiful outside. Is that what Michigan is really all about? Is the beauty

Carol O'Brien (03:32):

In this area? Yes. Because we have the lake and everyone is flat to the lake. Yes. That, that's definitely part of the recent. Yes.

Jessica Denson, Host (03:39):

So I would think having access matters to businesses as well as as residents.

Carol O'Brien (03:44):

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. That's correct. Yeah. All

Jessica Denson, Host (03:46):

Right. Well, thank you both. Uh, if in a perfect world, what do you hope to come out of today?

Carol O'Brien (03:51):

That we would, that, that the powers that be would see that not just towns need the internet, that people in the country actually need it worse because the people in the towns already have it. Uh, where we don't have it and there's a need

Jessica Denson, Host (04:06):

Act. The room of about 60 to 70 people has now split into two discussion groups. One focused on accessibility, where the majority of people have gravitated. The other group has just seven people trying to tackle the issue of affordable internet access. I head to this smaller table to listen into their discussion and learn why this issue matters to them most.

Round table discussion (04:29):

I guess mine is relatively inexpensive, I guess, but it, you get what you pay for it. It's garbage. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. I mean, I sit and watch it clock so much of my life, but, um, it's frustrating.

Round table discussion (04:42):

Um, yeah, and I, I'm fortunate that I can't afford my internet and I do have a cable company internet, but, um, having, you know, interacted with people all around the county, um, the biggest complaint that I do get is availability from the people who don't have internet. Cuz the people who do have internet don't complain. Um, uh, some complain about the cost, but, um, you know, sometimes people have to use a hotspot mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and then it either gets way slowed down or they run out of minutes bandwidth and then try that. They don't have the ability to make it through the whole

Round table discussion (05:22):

Month. Too expensive. Yes.

Round table discussion (05:23):

It's too expensive. And the overage charges are horrible when you, when you have to go beyond the, the allowable amount of data. So,

Round table discussion (05:31):


Round table discussion (05:33):

I, I, I don't know a lot of people personally who don't have it because they can't afford it. I, I just know that I can afford it, but I can really appreciate that. A lot of people probably can't. Uh, and it makes it really hard to get all the things that people need to do in life. Done.

Round table discussion (05:55):

And I have it too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Round table discussion (05:58):

I have a at and t, uh, what they call it. But anyway, uh, it's underground cable and it's, it's very reliable, but it's expensive. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I'm thinking about choices because I, I'm not using it as much as I was before because I work a lot. So I'm on my company's internet doing things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I might use it maybe a couple times a month and I'm paying big bucks, <laugh>. Mm-hmm.

Round table discussion (06:25):

<affirmative>, it seems

Round table discussion (06:25):

Like with everything I have Uverse, that's what it's called, Uverse.

Round table discussion (06:27):

Everything's gone to where you have to use a computer or phone. It's a necessity now.

Round table discussion (06:32):

Yeah, it is. You can't do anything without

Round table discussion (06:34):

It. Hardly. And it's hard when you can't afford a necessity. Yeah. Right. It eats into the other necessity.

Round table discussion (06:40):

And then you talk to the customer service people and you're not that important it seems. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> because nobody wants to talk to you about a deal before when you called the company, they tried to make a way to keep you, they didn't wanna let you go because you had been there so long. Cause I've been with at and t probably like 40 years. Yeah. And I'm thinking about cutting a cord

Round table discussion (07:01):

Because Verizon does the same thing to me. Or not Verizon Frontier. That's what it is. Frontier. They raise my thing like, you know how the clear blue, it'll go up 20 or 30 bucks mm-hmm. <affirmative> and you call 'em, you're on the phone an hour.

Round table discussion (07:16):

Yes. You have to put it on speaker

Round table discussion (07:17):

To Power Plus.

Round table discussion (07:19):

Yes. With bad music.

Round table discussion (07:20):

Yes. And, and the thing of this is

Round table discussion (07:22):

It's bad's

Round table discussion (07:23):

Bad internet. How dare you raise it? I'm not getting anything, you know, to pay more for, if anything, you should cut it in half or

Round table discussion (07:35):


Round table discussion (07:35):

Raise a good point. So I used to have a landline. Right. Uhhuh. <affirmative>. And you have to have phone to, to live. Yes. But the affordability of it, and, and I'm blessed, I can afford it, but it was, it didn't make sense to keep my landline when I'm always on my cell phone or on my computer. So, um, I, I guess where I'm going with that is the affordability of internet. There's no choices either. Yeah. You have it or you don't. And it's more space than you need, or more minutes than you need. I don't know if the flexibility of affordability is part of that,

Round table discussion (08:09):

Because either you take something that spins all day or you get a good plan where you get it done. Yeah. And I don't want to spend my time watching the things spin to get my stuff

Round table discussion (08:18):

Done. One of the things I worry about affordability and I didn't, I like to think, okay, what am I not seeing and what am I not hearing? And, and during the pandemic, we get opportunities to hear things, you know, and I, I'd heard of circumstances where youth were going to McDonald's, they were homeless or without service at home, and then McDonald's shut down and they had no internet. And so now they're distributed for school and they have no connectivity that, that's not necessarily affordability, but it is where are we not hearing people who cannot afford? And how are we making sure that we understand that the people providing are invested in our community to provide affordable service. That's true. Right? Because we need them as community partners for both those of us who have And, but what are we not seeing? Where are we not hearing? Because sometimes the people that cannot afford something are the quiet offset, the distant. We don't think about it. Until I heard or saw those instances, I was like, I'd never thought about those kids before. What else am I not seeing?

Jessica Denson, Host (09:30):

I also spent some time with two people representing the agricultural industry, a member of the Michigan State Farm Bureau and a local man whose farm has been in his family's care for generations. On our next episode, hear from them about why internet connectivity is critical to not just keeping America's farmers and ranchers thriving, but helping them survive. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and wanna know more about us, head to connected Our look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.


Connecting seniors, retirees
Discussion group on affordability
Next time on Connected Nation