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County seeks feedback on internet access

Alex Doty • Jun 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Community development experts are looking at ways to cast a larger net to get more people connected to the internet in Ottawa County.

The Ottawa County Broadband Committee has partnered with Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program to come up with a plan to improve access to high-speed internet service. The initial step consists of a short survey for residents, businesses, agriculture producers, health care facilities and schools to reassess the broadband landscape.

“We know there are areas of need, but it’s all very anecdotal,” Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Director Paul Sachs said. “We have a strong commitment countywide to enhance broadband access for everyone.”

Sachs noted that rural areas in particular can suffer from poor to no broadband connectivity.

“One area in particular that I hear about quite often is the southern end of Tallmadge Township along the Grand River toward Luce Street,” he said. “There are nearly 200 homes in that stretch, and they don’t have reliable access.”

Sachs said the county wants to stay on the cutting edge, and reliable internet access is essential in order to drive economic development and maintain a good quality of life — from using the internet for consuming entertainment to running a business to education.

“I do believe this is an amenity people are considering more and more when they are moving into an area,” he said.

The survey comes following a decade of work by the county to keep making improvements to the area’s internet access.

“We’ve had successes with expanding broadband into previously underserved areas through collaborative public-private partnerships, but we know there are still areas of need in the county,” Sachs said. “We hope that participating in this targeted work with Connected Nation’s local office, Connect Michigan, will provide us with a better understanding of where these remaining areas are situated so that we can continue developing creative partnerships to meet these broadband needs.”

Once the survey results are evaluated, the Ottawa County Broadband Committee and Connected staff will develop a plan focused on effectively and efficiently improving the county’s broadband environment.

“Getting everyone’s input — from parents to educators to businesses to the agricultural community — is key in helping us develop a Technology Action Plan that meets the unique needs of Ottawa County,” said Dan Manning, community technology advisor for Connected Nation. “The more input we get, the better we can identify ways to create access, adoption and use of broadband for everyone in Ottawa County.”

Sachs said the survey will be available over the next eight weeks at connectmycommunity.org/ottawa-county/. It’s estimated that the results could be evaluated by this coming fall.

“But that is flexible because we want to do everything we can to solicit input from residents, business owners and schools,” Sachs said. “The initial goal would be October, but we could extend that to the first of the year.”

 

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