Call to Action: Building a Network of Communities

Posted by Jason Kronemeyer on 2/3/2023

It is time to build a community of partners which not only provides critical connectivity to our schools but our community anchors as well. Connectivity to the world is becoming more critical every day and the rural geography in which we live continues to fall farther behind the global economy. We need to build on the work that was done 25-30 years ago which resulted in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Telecommunications Consortium (EUPTC). The EUPTC was the farmer that planted the seeds that have grown into one of the longest running regional networks in the nation as well as sprouting all technical services operated by the EUPTC. We used to refer to this network as the Interactive Television (ITV) system which was originally used only for distance learning until data networking was added in 1997.

Schools are not the only critical anchors in the community, they are anchors for our regional network which spans Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties. The network capacity for education will continue to require exponential growth going into the future. Other anchors in our communities such as healthcare, libraries, counties, municipalities, cooperatives, homes, businesses, service providers and visitors will also require exponential growth in network capacity. The “last mile” is still the piece that is not keeping up and every day we fall further behind the rest of the world. We cannot expect the commercial providers to go the last mile, there simply is no profit for their business and it is a losing endeavor for them to do it on their own. They need our help!

How do we help? We start by building the community that will share the burden to get this done for our region. Not for profit organizations need to take the lead and create the right organizational structure to facilitate everyone, public and private working together to build the community network which will ultimately become the next network for our schools going forward and go the last mile. Our students need to be connected where they live so our region may prosper.

The on-going question is: “How do we pay for it?” This is where the public anchors come in. WE all have access to funding mechanisms which, when looked at individually seem like this is an impossible task but collectively is enough to create a realistic business plan that will help keep us from being left behind from the global economy. The right formula is a public-private partnership where every organization brings their expertise to the project and finally overcomes this challenge for our communities.