GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — If you live in Ottawa County, officials want to know about your internet access.
The Ottawa County Data Collection Steering Committee is asking people to go to MichiganMoonshot.org/Ottawa to take the short survey, which asks about their access and how much it costs. The survey is open through Sept. 17.
The goal of the survey, which opened Monday, is to gather information for the county that can be used as it makes decisions about policies and works to close broadband internet access gaps.
“The survey information we’re collecting is essential to inform our decision making as a county as to how we address the continued inequities in broadband access, affordability and developing the essential digit literacy skills for the public as we move into the future and we advance our economy into the digital age,” said Paul Sachs, the director of the Department of Planning and Performance Improvement.
The steering committee includes representatives from the county intermediate school district, the Lakeshore Advantage economic development agency, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, the farm bureau, the Holland Board of Public Works and local governments. Merit Network, a research network; Michigan State University and the Michigan Moonshot Initiative, which is working on access issues around the state, are helping run the survey.
“We’ve participated in several programs over the last couple decades that were state sponsored to help address the digital divide in Michigan. And they really didn’t result in a pragmatic, real solutions to address the continued inequities. So, we’re tackling this locally. Putting energy and resources into deploying a pragmatic strategy to ultimately, the end goal is to create equitable, universal, affordable, reliable internet across the county,” Sachs said.
Sachs says officials have known of the gaps in access for years, adding that the issue elevated during the coronavirus pandemic and stay home orders.
“Broadband impacted everyone. From education, health care employers, you name it. And now, there’s a lot more energy, if you will, behind the initiative. So, many amazing stakeholders coming to the table and supporting what needs to be done, the timing is right,” Sachs said. “With the American Rescue Act dollars that are coming through — again goes back to this data — we can really inform how to best utilize some of those dollars to create one of the most robust infrastructures possible for our region.”
— News 8’s Emily Linnert contributed to this report.