Governor Rick Snyder on Jan. 29 signed an executive order designed to improve broadband services access in Michigan’s rural areas.
The news is welcome for farmers, said Ben LaCross, who attended the signing as part of his participation on the Governor’s 21st Century Infrastructure Committee.
“It’s a real step forward,” said LaCross, a cherry farmer from Cedar.
“Hopefully, the executive order creates a consortium that will dig deep into where there are gaps in broadband expansion.”
The order, in fact, creates the Michigan Consortium for Advanced Networks, which is directed to establish a roadmap to help strengthen statewide broadband access and connectivity.
“Ensuring all Michiganders have access to secure, reliable and affordable broadband services is an important step in our work to maximize Michigan’s momentum long into the future,” Snyder said. “Connectivity is a critical component for economic development, academic growth and stronger communities—particularly rural communities. I’m confident that this Consortium will create an innovative roadmap to help strengthen Michigan’s foundation for the future by enhancing broadband access statewide.”
Consortium members will represent government entities, the private sector, academia, and stakeholders. Five members will be appointed by the Governor and two individuals will be nominated by the Michigan Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader. Six additional non-voting members will include:
- The Director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, or his or her designee;
- The Director of the Michigan State Police, or his or her designee;
- The Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, or his or her designee;
- The Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, or his or her designee;
- The Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, or his or her designee; and
- The Director of the Department of Transportation, or his or her designee.
LaCross said the consortium is charged with reporting to the Governor by late summer with recommendations that the Governor plans to implement the last half of this year.
“When you look at broadband, private companies are expanding in some areas, and there are ways the government can help to facilitate that,” he said. “The consortium brings all the players together to make an impact.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that directs the General Services Administration to develop a common form and master contract for wireless facility locations on other property owned by the federal government within 180 days.
“The more people we can bring to the table to create high-quality, public/private partnerships, the more we can have a big win,” LaCross said.
Broadband access is key for farmers who want to take advantage of direct marketing and other services that high-speed internet can provide.
“There are small acute areas, like on my farm, where there is a gap,” he said. “There are major swaths of the Upper Peninsula that have no access even to cellular broadband internet. A lot of growers could really utilize it to access the market, and if they have it on their farm, their ability to expand sales could be significant.”
Besides sales, farmers need broadband access to get accurate field monitoring and thus conserve fertilizers and other inputs, making them more efficient.
“If your combine is linked up to real-time data and has the technology to support it, a farm manager or owner could monitor several machines and know why one is slowing down or moving faster,” LaCross said. “From a management standpoint, that is huge.”