The next High-Speed Internet Advisory Committee will be on January 22nd from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. If you would like to attend, email Chris Martin at email@example.com
IOSCO COUNTY, MICH. –– On Monday, October 30, 2023, Develop Iosco, Inc. (DI) and Iosco County were notified that the internet service provider Point Broadband had rescinded its Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant application during the comment and objection period through the State of Michigan’s High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI). This means that the planned high speed internet fiber expansion for the Quad Counties High Speed Internet project of $15.4 million dollars for the counties of Iosco, Arenac, Alcona, and Ogemaw will not move forward. The project was supposed to expand services to about 6,600 unserved and underserved locations in the area.
As previously noted in the initial grant announcement in local media and at community meetings hosted by DI, Iosco County, and its High-Speed Internet Advisory Committee (HSIAC), final grant approval was subject to a 45-day comment and objection period where other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who serve the areas could object to ensure grant funds do not overlap existing or planned service areas or areas funded by other state or federal programs. Final grant approval notifications were expected by late summer, however, the period had been extended by MIHI when challenges were made to the initial grant award proposals.
“To say that we are disappointed is an understatement. The HSIAC has met with numerous residents and business owners during the past year and validated concerns that while current ISPs in Iosco County say that they serve the area, service is inconsistent at best and often not available without expensive buildouts of internet infrastructure to specific homes, with the owners bearing the cost”, said Gloria Brooks, President of Develop Iosco. DI had included this information along with letters of support from nearly two dozen units of government, nonprofit organizations, business owners and residents in Point Broadband’s grant application submitted in March including a letter from State Rep. Mike Hoadley. The initial grant award was issued by the state in June 2023.
“This project continues to be a priority for Iosco County,” said Jamie Carruthers-Soboleski, Iosco County Finance Director/Controller and co-chair along with Brooks of the HSIAC. “The County has invested funds from the American Rescue Plan during the past year to move this project forward through the work of DCS Technology Design. We plan to evaluate what options exist to create another public-private partnership to improve the quality of internet accessibility to Iosco County.”
Chris Scharrer, founder and lead consultant with DCS, said that Point’s decision wasn’t made lightly and resulted in Point forfeiting $37 million with their decision to withdraw the application. He said the dollars will go back into the ROBIN fund and will be re-awarded to other applicants in a second round based on the previous scoring system. While Charter Communications did apply for ROBIN funding in
Iosco County, which duplicated some of the Point application’s proposed service area, their application included less coverage than Point had included in their application.
The HSIAC will reconvene on Tuesday, December 5 to receive formal updates from Scharrer regarding the status of his outreach to the other ISPs that initially met with the HSIAC at last year's ISP Roundtable event held in September 2022.
During the month of November, DCS’ next steps include determining where this decision from Point leaves Iosco and the other counties included in the rescinded proposal; learning details about the Round 2 funding from ROBIN, which is supposed to be announced by mid-November and whether or not any other ISPs plan to apply for expanded services in Iosco County. Another review of the internet service availability maps will be conducted, and any changes based on Point's disengagement results will be shared with the committee. The committee will also review information about an additional new round of grant funding from the state, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program that is scheduled for a request for proposal release in early 2024, and its potential impact to Iosco County.
More information about the high-speed internet initiative will be provided at Develop Iosco’s 4th Quarter Community and Annual Meeting to be held on Thursday, December 14, 2023 from 8:30 – 11 am. at the East Tawas Community Center.
DI is a 501-c-3 nonprofit volunteer organization serving as a convener and facilitator for economic development activities within Iosco County related to business development. As an economic development organization, DI promotes Iosco County as a place for business growth to improve the quality of life for current and new residents.