Broadband Internet service, at least at a basic level, is available in a surprisingly large percentage of Michigan households even in rural areas, according to a new report released Thursday by the nonprofit Connect Michigan, in partnership with the Michigan Public Service Commission.
The report found that broadband access of 3 megabits per second or better is available in 94 percent of Michigan households. Only 240,000 households statewide lack it.
The counties with the poorest access to broadband tend to be in the most rural areas of the Upper Peninsula, a band of counties stretching across the top third of the Lower Peninsula from roughly Ludington to Harrisville, and in a couple of counties along the Indiana border.
The counties most poorly served by even the most basic level of broadband, 768 kilobits per second and above, were Gladwin County at 47 percent, Alcona County at 53 percent, Luce County at 58 percent and Ogemaw County at 59 percent. Luce is in the UP, the other three counties are in the northeast Lower Peninsula.
The report was conducted based on a survey of 1,200 Michigan residents. State officials say the report is designed to be a catalyst for discussions on key policy goals and strategies to expand and enhance broadband opportunities for all Michigan residents.
“Michigan is making steady progress in identifying ways to expand broadband availability and adoption,” said Orjiakor Isiogu, chairman of the MPSC. “The report issued today pinpoints the areas where broadband does not yet exist, and it helps us better understand the barriers that have prevented people from adopting broadband where it is available.”
Said Brian Mefford, CEO of Connect Michigan’s nonprofit parent organization, Connected Nation: “This report presents Michigan policymakers with a statistical snapshot of broadband adoption at the county level — data critical for translating technology trends into actionable intelligence that will help us promote broadband adoption statewide.”
The report found that statewide, 82 percent of all residents own a home computer. This translates into over 1.3 million adults in Michigan without a home computer. Close to three-fourths of those without a computer say they do not believe they need one.
Ten percent of adults surveyed report that their only way of accessing the Internet is at a location outside their home.
Overall, 67 percent of Michigan households subscribe to a broadband Internet service — exactly the same as the national percentage. But that means that about 30 percent of Michigan households have broadband available, but for various reasons, are choosing not to subscribe to the service in the home.
The survey showed Michigan households use those connections for the things you’d expect — email, shopping, banking. But 17 percent of Michiganders say they telework from home regularly, and another 27 percent said they would if they were allowed to.
The average monthly price paid for broadband access in Michigan was $43.59, higher than the national average of $41.18.
Sixteen percent of Michigan households who do not subscribe to home broadband service report a lack of available broadband service. In many cases, the consumer is simply not aware that a broadband service provider is in their area. Connect Michigan has published a real-time broadband availability map that allows consumers to search for area providers.
Mefford said the report shows the state and Internet providers need to do more outreach to convince the public that Internet technology “can help them in their lives no matter where they are, no matter how much money they make, no matter what they do for a living.”
Mefford also praised the level of cooperation Connected Michigan received in conducting the survey from tech trade association and Internet service providers.
The survey also found household broadband adoption low in households headed by those 65 or older (28 percent), those of low income (45 percent) and those with disabilities (50 percent). Minority household adoption stood at 59 percent.
In rural Michigan, 72 percent of residents say they have broadband service, 12 percent say it’s not available, and 15 percent don’t know.
The survey found the fastest form of service, fiber direct to the home, is available to less than 1 percent of Michigan households.
There’s more on this than you would probably ever want to know — more than 150 slides — at www.connectmi.org/_documents/MI_RES_FINAL.pdf.