Better internet coming to Berrien County communities as broadband moves forward

NOW: Better internet coming to Berrien County communities as broadband moves forward

NEXT:

ORONOKO TOWNSHIP, Mich. — After nearly two years of research, surveying and gathering funds, better internet access is coming to Berrien County residents living in rural, underserved areas. 

“We found that people in the county who truly had broadband service, it was only 35% of residents versus the 88% the federal government [FCC] had estimated, so really big gaps,” said Brian Dissette, Berrien County Administrator. 

In an age of remote work and school, it’s making it impossible at times to connect. 

“When COVID happened and my kids needed to do Zoom for school, it wasn’t gonna happen – maybe one at a time there would be enough bandwidth,” said Mike Hildebrand, Oronoko Township Supervisor. 

Oronoko Township did receive $700,000 in municipal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, but they need to install 27 miles of fiber optic network, which is why they’ve submitted an application to the county to get in on some of their ARPA funds. 

“A contractor is coming in 2022 to build this, while they’re here the opportunity is ripe for them to do the entire project,” said Hildebrand.  

But they’re not the only applicant, and Berrien County’s Broadband Task Force will spend the next few months deciding how to allocate the six to eight million dollars being set aside for broadband. 

“If a project is going to be considered it will have to be truly the latest and greatest – so 100 megabit service down, 100 up – and we want proof that the project won’t be a duplication of something that’s already in the works,” said Dissette.

Residents can rest assured, though, that their internet woes will be significantly improving.

“Between the federal money and local ARPA funds, residents are going to see a dramatic uptick,” said Dissette.

Something residents can do now to access speedy internet is visit one of the seven new, free, public WiFi lift zones set up through Comcast in Berrien County: 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Dr., Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Buchanan Area Senior Center, 810 Rynearson St., Buchanan, MI 49107

Central County Senior Center, 4083 E. Shawnee Rd., Berrien Springs, MI 49103

Greater Niles Senior Citizens' Center, 1109 Bell Rd., Niles, MI 49120

New Troy Community Center, 13372 California Rd., New Troy, MI 49119

River Valley Senior Center, 13321 Red Arrow Hwy., Harbert, MI 49115

Senior Citizens Center, 225 Colfax Ave., Benton Harbor, MI 49022

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