Merit Network receives USDA grant for high-speed internet expansion in rural Michigan

Feb. 28, 2024
The funding comes from the USDA’s Broadband Technical Assistance Program.

Merit Network Inc. announced on Feb. 23 that it received a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant. The funding, totaling $997,000, will be used to develop a connectivity and digital equity strategy that promotes the expansion of high-speed internet in underserved rural Michigan communities.

The grant is part of the USDA’s Broadband Technical Assistance Program, which is providing 24 companies with $9.7 million to expand high-speed internet access for people in rural and Tribal communities across 17 states.

President and CEO of Merit Network, Roger Blake, said in a press release, “This grant provides a wonderful opportunity to help Michigan communities get on the right track to achieving broadband internet service and digital inclusion that improves quality of life and allows people to live, work, play, and stay in the places they call home.”

Merit Network reports that the project includes several communities across eight rural areas in Michigan and leverages the Digital Opportunities Compass, a framework developed at Michigan State University.

Charlotte Bewersdorff, vice president of community engagement at Merit Network, said in the press release, “This compass framework acts as a vehicle for community engagement and planning that results in knowledgeable local resources poised to take action with the backing of leadership, community organizations, and others. The teams that support this work are DE experts, researchers, and practitioners of broadband expansion efforts. Our goal is to serve as an unbiased resource in facilitating multi-stakeholder digital equity planning at the local level.”

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