GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Leaders in Ottawa County are working to make broadband internet more accessible for residents, following the results of a recent survey.
The county partnered with Merit Network’s Michigan Moonshot team to develop a survey for 23 communities to identify residents’ experiences with broadband and how access, or lack thereof to broadband impacts quality of life.
Of approximately 4,000 surveys analyzed, 11% of households reported not having internet access at all. That’s much different from federal findings. Current federal standards define a broadband connection as 25 megabits per second for download and 3 megabits per second for upload. However, industry experts and lawmakers believe broadband should be classified as speeds above 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads. Current FCC data in Ottawa County suggest 93% of residents have access at the 100 Mbps/20 Mbps speed. However, the county study results were drastically different, showing only 15% of respondent households have broadband internet at speeds above 100 Mbps/20 Mbps.
The county’s report concludes the results demonstrate that much of Ottawa County is unconnected or insufficiently connected and that this data indicates a problem much starker than FCC data suggests. The northern part of the county including Wright, Polkton, and Chester townships had the least access, but the study shows there are many different regions within the county that don’t have access.
Among people who reported not having service, 72% said it was because there wasn’t service available. Price was another barrier; 26% of unconnected households said the costs were too high.
County leaders said inconsistent access to broadband can have a negative impact on economic development, local prosperity, and quality of life for residents. In response to the survey findings, Ottawa County has developed a four-phase strategic plan to bring robust and affordable broadband to residents and businesses throughout the county. Data from the study will be used to support grant applications and broadband planning efforts in Ottawa County.