WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it will invest $22.5 million in high-speed broadband services for rural areas in Michigan.
The investment will be split among two companies who will install and provide broadband services to unserved and underserved areas, officials said.
Barry County Services Company will receive $11.8 in a loan/grant combination to extend fiber-based broadband services in Barry County to 17 farms, 16 businesses and 12,000 residents across 127 miles, officials said.
Southwest Michigan Communications Inc. will receive $10.7 million in a loan/grant combination to provide a fiber broadband service to both Van Buren and Allegan counties. Their services will extend to 22 farms, 19 businesses and 7,700 residents across 100 square miles, officials said.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency," said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband.”
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemics wagers on throughout the state, school districts are working to establish remote classrooms for students -- which can be problematic for those with limited or no access to necessary technology or broadband services.
K-12 schools have been canceled since March 17 and it is not yet known if schools will reopen for in-person lessons in the fall.