Though high-speed Internet is now available to more than 96 percent of Michiganders, some pockets in southern Grand Traverse County remain in the dialup era.
The areas that continue to be most affected include near Kingsley, Interlochen and around the lakes between Kingsley and TC.
“Several providers have expanded and fired up new towers just recently,” says Thomas Stephenson, a community tech advisor for Connect Michigan, the state-contracted agency helping expand broadband Internet coverage.
Fewer than 60 percent of area residents had high-speed Internet in 2010, according to a Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce study.
The organization has not measured since then, but there has been noticeable progress, says Doug DeYoung vice president of business development. He points to gaps in Leelanau, Grand Traverse and other nearby counties that should be addressed.
Charter Communications, the long-established Internet provider in the area, is available to more than 1.1 million homes in Michigan. Of those, 97 percent can receive broadband, says company spokesman Bill Morand.
“Our goal would be 100 percent,” he tells The Ticker. “We continue to look at these areas (that do not have broadband service) and find ways to bring it.”
Companies traditionally have not been able to justify broadband investment in large, rural areas, though current national statistics say 94 percent of all Americans now have access to high-speed Internet.
Mi Spot, based in the state’s Thumb area, is one company expanding into the Grand Traverse region, while other players are beefing up their coverage. The company could plug some of the holes in coverage here, but will also compete in areas that have long-established coverage.
Counties neighboring Grand Traverse have even bigger holes to fill in broadband coverage, according to Connect Michigan’s web site. Wexford, to the south, has much of its middle underserved or un-served, while areas of Kalkaska County east of Fife Lake are also largely without adequate service.
Connect Michigan’s Stephenson says he’s more concerned with convincing people who have the availability to sign up than he is with closing gaps in coverage. In fact, 60 percent of the people who could subscribe to it “see no use for it.”
Nearly 1 in 5 of people working in Michigan now “telework” or telecommute full- or part-time, Stephenson adds, noting it could keep someone from landing a job.
“A lot of teleworkers are forced to go to the library or find the Internet someplace else,” he says.