Bridging the Digital Divide in Michigan

Linda Teeter of Michigan Citizen Action talks about the challenges and benefits of bringing wireless technology to Michigan:

After 30 years in political and community organizing in Michigan, I have had the opportunity to learn from the people and communities we work with – the challenges they face and their many accomplishments. It’s this experience that has led me to understand how important it is for every community in the state, both rural and urban, to have access to wireless broadband. As the Executive Director of Michigan Citizen Action (MCA) I believe that there are many real consumer benefits involved with upgrading and expanding Michigan’s wireless service and we can see significant progress in the coming years. I also believe the benefits are so resounding that most of us will agree it’s in our common interest to make it happen.

As most of us have probably read in a July 16th BFM post, there are some incredible consumer benefits of increased broadband access including more reliable wireless service, increased business productivity, and a wealth of new teaching tools for rural schools and communities. Unfortunately, Michigan is falling behind in terms of wireless connectivity for many reasons including a lack of access and increased costs. In my opinion, this is unacceptable and we need to start finding solutions to this problem.

Just think about it… if every household, school, and community in Michigan had high-speed wireless broadband we would be able to boost productivity, rapidly improve communication speeds, and provide our children with the type of technology and education they need to succeed in an ever-evolving job market. What seems to be most unfortunate about this lack of broadband access is that marginalized populations and rural communities are left behind and this creates the digital divide that exists between those who have access and those who do not have access to this vital technology.

With a membership of more than 10,000 Michiganders, MCA is committed to educating and informing our members to make the best decisions in the name of equality and democracy. For this reason, we are committed to finding solutions that benefit all walks of life- young and old, lower, middle and upper income, male and female, varying racial backgrounds, and a variety of faiths and political leanings. I’m confident that increased broadband access can benefit every Michigan resident. In fact, two recent infographics from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) show how mobile broadband can benefit many aspects of rural communities as well as health IT throughout the country.

One of the ways that we can overcome this challenge is by supporting President Obama’s plan to deliver broadband to 98% of the country. In recent news, as many people know, the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile alone would nearly fulfill Obama’s goal with no additional tax increases or federal funding. According to former Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher, the merger would achieve the President’s goal in 5 years. These are the types of innovative, large-scale solutions that Michigan needs to bring broadband to every community regardless of their geographic location or socio-economic status.

It’s important that we spread the word about this state-of-the art technology and the good things it can do for Michigan and underserved communities across the country. As an editorial in The Detroit News pointed out, wireless broadband is essential to realizing the American Dream and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.
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