(CBS DETROIT) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Directive Wednesday to make high-speed internet more affordable and accessible.

Whitmer’s administration stated, with high-speed internet becoming a necessity in education, professional and personal lives, the new Michigan High-Speed Internet Office will be dedicated to coordinating and advancing Michigan’s efforts to ensure that every home and business has access to an affordable, reliable high-speed connection.

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Gaps in high-speed internet availability, affordability, adoption, and use disproportionately impact communities of color, those in rural areas, and low-income householdsEvidence demonstrates that increasing opportunities to get connected have a range of benefits, including: 

Education

Highspeed internet connections help students earn higher grades and build the digital skills they will need to succeed in higher education and the workforce.  Students who miss out on digital skills are less likely to be interested in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math. Regardless of socioeconomic status, students without a high-speed connection at home are less likely to attend college or university. 

Health Outcomes 

Telemedicine has long been recognized as a way to increase access to care in areas where reaching a provider’s office in-person can be challenging or to make it possible to consult with a specialist without having to travel to a major medical center.  In addition, there is evidence that telemedicine reduces hospitalizations of nursing home patients and reduces health care costs. 

Small Businesses 

Small businesses that have websites have higher annual revenues and are more likely to have recently hired one or more employees than similar businesses that aren’t online. Those that use social media weekly are three times more likely to have hired recently than those that don’t. 

Increased access to the internet can help address issues of isolation among older adults. Studies have shown that isolation is associated with worse health outcomes and even premature death among adults age 50 and over. 

Civic Engagement

Broadband is essential for the modern electorate to have access to educational materials about candidates and issues on ballots, as well as information on voter registration and precinct locations.   

Climate Change

Advanced grid technologies such as sensors, advanced metering infrastructure, grid monitoring and control systems, and remote reconfiguration and redundancy systems will be used to detect and solve problems remotely.  

 Rural Development 

Gaining high-speed internet connections can help support economic development in virtually all sectors of rural economies, ranging from farming to manufacturing to tourism and recreation Rural communities that lack connectivity struggle to recruit businesses and retain population.

“COVID-19 has only confirmed how the lack of high-speed internet access can cause too many Michiganders to struggle in their ability to engage in online learning, to use telemedicine to seek needed healthcare, to search for a new job or to take advantage of all the online resources,” said Whitmer. “A fully connected Michigan is essential for our state to reach its economic potential in the 21st-century global economy.

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