Ann Arbor SPARK awarded $2.4 million grant for broadband expansion in Washtenaw County

Fiber optic cables.
Fiber optic cables. (Pixabay)

ANN ARBOR – Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) announced on Thursday $2.4 million in federal funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Ann Arbor SPARK to build 20 miles of underground fiber optic cable, connecting downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Ypsilanti with critical broadband infrastructure.

The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Corridor Fiber Optic Backbone project, accompanied by $600,000 in local funding, aims to create public broadband infrastructure that tech companies, the cities and businesses can utilize along the corridor for innovative products, affordable and reliable broadband, and company location.

“Even before the pandemic, many people across the U.S. were disconnected and unable to access simple resources the internet provides like access to employment, business software capabilities, virtual learning, and healthcare,” said Rep. Dingell. “Expanding strong broadband internet is one piece of our country’s infrastructure puzzle, and I’m thankful we could secure this funding for SPARK to help sustain and attract businesses across Ypsi and Ann Arbor and help our economy thrive.”

“One of the key roles SPARK plays for Washtenaw County is to develop collaborative partnerships to find funding for important strategic economic development projects,” said Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK president and CEO. “Extending and expanding broadband capability from downtown Ann Arbor into the eastern County communities of Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township out to the American Center for Mobility is prime example of this type of collaboration.

“Special thanks to the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County for joining SPARK in providing the required financial match to receive this grant from the US Economic Development Administration. SPARK is providing $200K towards that match. This project will create new development opportunities for businesses to locate in this part of the county and for residents, young and old, to have better access to the immense resources that can be found through the internet.”

This funding is part of the CARES Act, which included $1.5 billion in funding for the EDA to distribute to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.