Let me draw you a picture with words

Posted on January 25, 2010


A little story in the Record-Eagle caught my eye: Google executive running for governor. Matt Dunne, the Google executive in question, lives and works in Vermont, for heaven’s sake. Vermont has internet service capable of supporting the telecommuting needs of a Google executive. OK, as it turns out, it doesn’t have it everywhere, but if Dunne is elected governor of the state he plans to make it “the first state that brings fiber-optic high-speed Internet to every home in the state.” For crying out loud, I thought, if Vermont can do it–Vermont!–we ought to be able to find the political will to get the job done in Michigan.

So. There’s news. During 2010 there will be a build-out of the backbone for a decent system in Michigan. You can read all about it at Merit Network wins REACH-3MC Broadband Stimulus Proposal and Commerce Awards Recovery Act Broadband Expansion Grants Totaling $63 Million. For a shorter read, here are the two paragraphs of that second press release that directly affect all of us who live in northern Michigan:

  • Michigan, Merit Network, Inc.: $33.3 million infrastructure grant with an additional $8.3 million in matching funds to build a 955-mile advanced fiber-optic network through 32 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The project also intends to directly connect 44 community anchor institutions and will serve an area covering 886,000 households, 45,800 businesses, and an additional 378 anchor institutions.
  • Michigan, Michigan State University: $895,000 public computer center grant with an additional $235,000 in matching funds to expand 84 existing library computer centers and establish four new computer centers. Computer center sites were selected by targeting underserved and high-unemployment population areas and then focusing on those libraries with the greatest need for additional computing capacity. The project will add 500 new workstations at these targeted public computer centers throughout the state and serve nearly 13,000 additional users per week.

Where exactly all this will go, and who exactly will be able to run services on it, is an emerging story. It’s sort of like building railroads in the 19th century. Towns that got rail prospered–at least for a time. Towns that were bypassed withered. 

Business and political leaders in Elk Rapids are working hard to make sure the 21st century railroad goes through their town, and their cause is ours.  The path from Elk Rapids to Charlevoix runs right up US 31 through Milton Township and Torch Lake Township and Banks Township.  I have no idea whether their solutions are the best ones, but I’m sure going to learn as much as I can about what they’re thinking. You can, too. Please come to the informational meeting on Wednesday, January 27:

Here’s a quick little history lesson. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. He did not even invent the assembly line. What he did do was to deploy the good ideas and the technology of his time. He did right well for himself, and other auto geeks quickly adopted his notions and improved upon them and the next thing you know Michigan had an economic engine to replace the dead lumbering industry and the dying stove industry.

One of the ways that the automotive pioneers built demand for their products was to lobby for decent roads to drive them on. During World War I, they made the argument that good roads were a matter of national defense. A young career military guy by the name of Dwight Eisenhower, mired in the muck in a convoy of trucks, concluded that the argument was correct, and when he got to be President a few decades and another war later, he made it his business to promote an interstate highway system. Meanwhile, the automakers were busily promoting tourism, too, and the next thing you know Michigan was improving roads so that people could drive their motor cars through the pretty scenery and stop at Tourist Cabins along the way. Another industry blossomed.

Here’s the reverse side of that card.

It is time that we build the infrastructure of the 21st Century. It is past time. Torch Lake Township, Antrim County, and much of rural Michigan, are crippled by lack of access to reliable high-speed internet service. If you are in business here, if you own property here, if you are raising children here, this issue is important to you. Please give it some thought. Learn what you can from articles, meetings, even Torch Lake Views. I’m trying to keep up. Things are moving pretty fast. I can use your help. Share whatever you know. I’m going to that meeting on Wednesday. Hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, I’ll tell you all about it on Thursday!