Community leaders discuss high speed Internet

April 10, 2014
Sen. Geoff Hansen addresses the group.

Sen. Geoff Hansen addresses the group.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

HART — Several dozen community leaders gathered at the Hart Middle School library this morning to discuss how to integrate broadband Internet into underserved local rural areas. The meeting was facilitated by State Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) who represents Mason, Oceana, Newaygo and Muskegon counties.

Hansen said the meeting came out of a discussion he had with a small group of community leaders about increasing broadband in Oceana County.

Leading today’s meeting was Tom Stephenson, community technology advisor for Connect Michigan, the agency that is contracted with the Michigan Public Service Commission to expand broadband service in Michigan.

Because the meeting was held in Hart, much of the data presented was for Oceana County. Currently, 82% of the households in Oceana County have Internet service of at least 3 megabytes per second; 42% have service of 10 mbps; 42% have service to 25 mbps. On the state level, 97% of households have 3 mbps, 92% have 10 mbps, 87% have 25 mbps.

Stephenson said one of the numbers that continues to rise is the amount of companies that allow their employees to telecommute. He said telecommuters tend to make higher salaries than traditional office-bound employees. They also tend to take extended weekends, which means spending more time and money in resort areas such as Mason and Oceana counties.

He said most schools in Michigan provide Internet service to students. But, many students do have access, or high speed access, at their homes. It is almost essential for the students to have that access.

Many of those in attendance represented schools, businesses, government agencies and Internet service providers.

Several ISP representatives spoke about the services they provide including nationally based companies Frontier Communications and Charter Communications, which provide either DSL or cable services; eastern Michigan-based MiSpot, which is a wireless company and Mason County based SyncWave, which is also a wireless company.

Sen. Hansen said he was surprised by the turnout. “We expected about 30 people and had over 70,” he said. “This goes to show that there is a need for broadband service throughout this district.”

Hansen is recommending that each county establish a committee that will address broadband. Several people in attendance volunteered to serve on those committees. If you are interested, contact Tim Stephenson at Connect Michigan at or Sen. Hansen’s office at

More on Connect Michigan here.