LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – A grant from Michigan’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is supporting the development of high-speed internet in the Upper Peninsula. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced Tuesday that a $3 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant is being awarded for the construction of a 70-mile, middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure.

Merit Network, Inc. will receive the grant and lead the construction of the project. The development will expand high-speed broadband service in remote and underserved areas throughout Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties. It will support the region’s Leveraging Infrastructure for Transforming the Upper Peninsula (LIFT-UP) initiative, which provides middle-mile infrastructure to local internet service providers.

“This federal investment will expand access to reliable high-speed internet that meets people’s needs in Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am grateful to our federal partners for prioritizing investments in high-speed internet, which is critical for families and small businesses. Getting this done will continue growing Michigan’s economy, support telework and telehealth, and offer more Michiganders access to remote learning opportunities. And at the state level, we will continue expanding access to high-speed internet with funding from the recently-signed Building Michigan Together Plan and opportunities offered by the Michigan High Speed Internet Office I established last year.” 

The grant from the EDA will be matched with $2.3 million in local funds. Officials expect the development to create 50 jobs, as well as retain 10 jobs and generate $5 million in private investment. 

“President Biden is committed to harnessing the full power of the federal government to ensure our nation not only recovers from this pandemic but builds a stronger America,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will bring greater economic resiliency to Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula by delivering critical middle-mile broadband infrastructure that will help spur economic growth, support telework, and provide access to remote learning opportunities.” 

“In today’s world, you need reliable high-speed internet for everything from work, school, doctors’ visits, and paying your bills,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “This new investment brings us one step closer to making sure all families in our state have access to these essential services.” 

In total, the CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided the EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus across the state. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program, provides financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.  

“High-speed internet access has become more vital than ever – whether you are working from home, starting a small business, or obtaining an education,” said Senator Gary Peters. “That’s why I was proud to secure this support through the CARES Act – so that more communities across the Upper Peninsula can get connected online, all while creating good-paying jobs in Michigan and generating robust economic investment and opportunity. I’ll continue working to expand affordable internet options and close the digital divide in our state.” 

“The Economic Development Administration supports community-led strategies to accelerate economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This EDA investment will support the installation of more than 70 miles of underground conduit and fiber optic cable, delivering high-speed internet to remote and underserved communities in the state’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.”