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Eaton County may use federal stimulus money to extend broadband services

broadband
Posted at 1:30 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 15:43:55-04

CHARLOTTE, Mich. — Eaton County expects to receive slightly more than $21 million in federal stimulus money and is exploring options for how to use it.

One possibility: extending broadband throughout the county.

The chairman of the Eaton County Board of Commissioners, Jeremy Whittum, said there are approximately 42,000 people in Eaton County who are under-served with broadband.

"When we're talking about the higher speed broadband, one gigabit or faster, only about six percent of our total population has one-gigabit capacity," Whittum said.

Special assessment district in Charlotte
Special assessment district in Charlotte

"Broadband today, it's a utility. And through our COVID frustration the number of people who are working remotely, the number of people who have started home-based based businesses need dependable quality internet," Whittum said.

Whittum and commissioner Terrance Augustine met with AT&T last week to discuss the expansion of broadband.

State officials announce a third round of grants to improve internet service in under-served areas
Thousands of rural Michigan residents don't have access to high-speed internet which has been a challenge as they try to work and continue their education remotely during the pandemic

David Votta, the director of the Charlotte Community Library, said having broadband expanded to the entire community would be a great thing.

"We see people every day that come in and use our WiFi and our computers both for their work, for distance learning," Votta said. "Telehealth is a real concern that's been growing and used more now, and having broadband technology so folks can do that at home with more privacy would be a huge benefit."

Votta said the number of people using the library's WiFi has greatly increased, and in the past year, the library has expanded and boosted its WiFi service.

Eaton County .jpg
Eaton County should receive about $21 million in stimulus money.

Whittum said the county is waiting for the U.S. Department of Treasury to release final administrative rules, at which point the board will be able to further discuss how the money will be allocated.

Eaton County Governmental Offices
Federal stimulus money for Eaton County.

At this time the board knows they cannot spend the money on pensions, and they cannot replace revenue that would be reduced through a tax reduction.

Eaton County has not received the money yet. When they do, it will need to be used by 2024.

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Cali Montana

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