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Michiganders encouraged to offer input for broadband expansion program


This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length

Tina Sawyer: Bringing high-speed internet to all households, businesses, and schools in Michigan is underway with a five-year initiative known as "bead" or the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

Eric Frederick is the Chief Connectivity Officer for the the State of Michigan.

He recently spoke with WCMU's David Nicholas to explain how Michiganders can have their voice heard in this process and help bring high-speed internet to underserved communities.

Erick Frederick: We have a very large allocation in the state of Michigan, the fourth highest in the nation, at $1.559 billion. To get the job done. B.E.A.D. really is designed to get to the universal availability of high-speed Internet for every home, business and institution in the state of Michigan. And that's what we intend to do.

David Nicholas: As we sit down today, we are coming up on a deadline by which you want to hear from residents across the state of Michigan. Tell us about that deadline and what you were looking for as in regards to the input from citizens across. The state.

EF: That's right. So, the B.E.A.D. program has to start with knowing where all of the unserved homes and businesses and institutions are in the state. We have a pretty decent idea of which locations are unserved or underserved, but that data could be incorrect. So, we want to hear from citizens. We want to hear from communities and nonprofit organizations and Internet service providers about where the map is wrong? So, the deadline to tell us about those changes that need to be made is April 30th. So next Tuesday, at midnight, April 30th, we will be accepting challenges again from all of those different entities to tell us where our map is wrong. We know that there's (there's) errors on it, but we need. We need to know where they are and I think this is a great process of being able to take in that information, change the map so that before we start handing out dollars to build infrastructure to locations that are unserved, we have as accurate of a map as possible.

DN: Is it the volume of challenges? How, when you collect all this data and (and) review it after the 30th, how are you going to be making the decisions on essentially as (as) you would say, redrawing that map?

EF: So, we review all the evidence that's submitted to us. It's not just telling us which location is wrong and why, but it's providing evidence to that. So, we review that evidence against our standards that have been established. And once we've, we're, we're satisfied that they meet the standards, then we would accept that challenge. Now, if an Internet service provider is challenged, let's say that the map shows that service is available from ABC Internet service provider and you don't believe that's correct, you can tell us that with evidence and then that Internet service provider would also have a chance to rebut; challenge that challenge, if you will. So, there's two sides to every challenge. The evidence that comes in from the challenger and then evidence that comes in from the Internet service provider to rebut that challenge. And we compare both of those sets of evidence against our standards, and then we'll be able to adjudicate those towards the end of the challenge process. So again, we have very high evidence standards to make sure that the challenges that we receive and the rebuttals that we receive are truly accurate and reflect the availability for folks on the ground.

DN: We mentioned earlier the five-year plan being rolled out and including what we've discussed so far then is that spending deadline where the 1.5 billion has to be spent within a five-year window?

EF: So yeah, so the (the) five-year action plan really was the precursor to the challenge period. And then what will be the granting period for B.E.A.D. and it lays out all of the challenges and things that we will, we could face with the B.E.A.D. program. And so it helps guide our office in the state of Michigan, and making sure that we know exactly how to design a program that uses those funds to address all of the challenges in the state. Once our challenge period is completely over, we will then adjudicate all those challenges. Like I said before and then we will move on to what's called sub grantee selection where you know we will have our map of locations that need to be served. And we'll take project applications from any entity that wishes to participate in B.E.A.D. and help us build this infrastructure. That process is going to take about a year. And so, we're looking at it'd be about fall of 2025 when we would know which grantees are going to be part of B.E.A.D., where they're going to be serving. And from there, we'll be off to the races and those entities then have four years to build that infrastructure. So, the five-year action plan was really kind of the one year leading up to granting out funds and then four years for those grantees to build that infrastructure to connect every location in the state.

DN: Well, Eric, you used the phrase off to the races down the road when it came to (to) getting those projects underway. It sounds like you're already off to the races now with prepping for this deadline coming up before the challenges and then moving forward from there. And thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck as the process moves forward.

EF: Yeah. Appreciate it. Thank you.

TS: That was Eric Frederick, the state's chief connectivity officer speaking with WCMU's David Nicholas. The deadline to file an internet challenge with the state is Tuesday April 30. Visit for more information on how to file a challenge.

David Nicholas is WCMU's local host of All Things Considered.
Tina Sawyer is the local host of Morning Edition on WCMU. She joined WCMU in November, 2022.