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Press Release

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $3 Million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance to Expand High-Speed Internet in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $3 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to Merit Network, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, to support construction of a 70-mile, middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure, which will expand access to high-speed internet in the region.

The project will expand high-speed internet service in remote and underserved areas throughout Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties and support the region’s Leveraging Infrastructure for Transforming the Upper Peninsula (LIFT-UP) initiative, which provides middle-mile infrastructure to local internet service providers. This EDA investment will be matched with $2.3 million in local funds and is expected to create 50 jobs, retain 10 jobs, and generate $5 million in private investment.

“President Biden is committed to harnessing the full power of the federal government to make sure every community builds back better from this pandemic, and that means ensuring that every single American has access to high-speed, affordable internet service,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This critical infrastructure investment will serve as a much needed down payment on the hundreds of millions of dollars coming to Michigan expand access to high-speed internet thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In particular, this $3 million award from EDA will bring greater economic resiliency to Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula by delivering critical, middle-mile broadband infrastructure that will help spur economic growth, support telework, and provide access to remote learning opportunities.”

“The Economic Development Administration supports community-led strategies to accelerate economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This EDA investment will support the installation of more than 70 miles of underground conduit and fiber optic cable, delivering high-speed internet to remote and underserved communities in the state’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.”

“This federal investment will expand access to reliable high-speed internet that meets people’s needs in Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am grateful to our federal partners for prioritizing investments in high-speed internet, which is critical for families and small businesses. Getting this done will continue growing Michigan’s economy, support telework and telehealth, and offer more Michiganders access to remote learning opportunities. And at the state level, we will continue expanding access to high-speed internet with funding from the recently-signed Building Michigan Together Plan and opportunities offered by the Michigan High Speed Internet Office I established last year.”

“Today’s announcement will make a difference for communities in Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac Counties,” said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Since day one of our administration, Governor Whitmer and I have worked hard to connect more families and small businesses to high-speed internet. Through the Connecting Michigan Communities Program, we expanded high-speed internet to over 18,000 more homes and small businesses, creating an estimated annual economic benefit of more than $32 million. We are grateful for continued investment from our federal partners and will continue to work with them to boost access to high-speed internet across Michigan.”

“In today’s world, you need reliable high-speed internet for everything from work, school, doctors’ visits, and paying your bills,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “This new investment brings us one step closer to making sure all families in our state have access to these essential services.”

“High-speed internet access has become more vital than ever – whether you are working from home, starting a small business, or obtaining an education,” said Senator Gary Peters. “That’s why I was proud to secure this support through the CARES Act – so that more communities across the Upper Peninsula can get connected online, all while creating good-paying jobs in Michigan and generating robust economic investment and opportunity. I’ll continue working to expand affordable internet options and close the digital divide in our state.”

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136 PDF), which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) (PDF) program, provides a wide-range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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