Allegan County investing millions of federal funds in broadband

Allegan County investing millions of federal funds in broadband

ALLEGAN TOWNSHP, Mich. (WOOD) — Allegan County is preparing to using federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to help expand broadband access.

Robert Sarro, the county administrator, said using the money for internet infrastructure was one of the top suggestions from residents.

“We have some areas that have very great coverage and availability and cost effective. We have areas that have virtually no viable option to get internet speeds of 100 megabit to the home,” Sarro said.

Sarro said the initial costs to install fiber-optic lines often prevents companies from providing service in rural areas.

“For providers to run the infrastructure to … what they tend to call ‘last mile efforts,’ it’s very difficult to build a return on investment for those providers,” Sarro said.

Millions of dollars will go to high-speed internet and projects to improve water infrastructure.

“Overall the county received just shy of 23 million and all of that really is going to be spent between broadband and the water quality,” Sarro said.

Companies like Bloomingdale Communications say high speed internet access is crucial to attract businesses and residents to live in rural areas, according to CEO and General Manager Steve Shults.

“When I look at our call volume, the volume that our customer service people are seeing right now, 40% of our calls are people checking in. ‘Do you cover my home? Are you planning a project in my home? When can I get service?’” Shults said.

Shults said while the interest in broadband is strong, getting equipment for an expansion can be challenging.

“What we’re seeing is hyperinflation in terms of cost but also long lead times especially with electronics and all the materials and supplies so the fiber, those pedestal boxes that go alongside the road,” Shults said.

Allegan County hopes the funding can be used as effectively as possible to reach those without high-speed options.

An estimated 12,000 homes in the county do not have access to 100-megabit service.

“That’s our goal. Really to make sure that cost effective, reliable high-speed internet is available to everybody that wants it,” Shults said.

The county hopes to have contracts awarded by the end of the year.

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