Fiber Growth Continues

Published by Bob Hance on Wednesday, February 28, 2024 in Internet

"We are a township office and can now do the day-to-day operations we need to do by law. Service is immeasurable!"

— Fabius Township

There is no better testimonial than this to sum up why we do fiber. It’s not about giving people the ability to stream their favorite sports. Well, maybe a little. But more importantly, it’s about survival in the modern world.

And we’re not slowing down. Many of your non-MEC neighbors and friends still lack access to reliable broadband. As a result, we have been very busy expanding our fiber infrastructure in rural southern Michigan, and I want to share the highlights of our work:

State of Michigan, Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) Grant

In 2023, Michigan announced a $250 million grant program to expand internet service to “unserved and underserved” addresses throughout the state. The state defines “unserved and underserved” as addresses that do not currently have access to internet speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

In an unprecedented collaboration with Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties, 40 townships in those counties, plus Sherman Township in St. Joseph County, we submitted a ROBIN application to bring fiber to roughly 7,000 unserved and underserved rural addresses. The participating townships and counties are investing over $12.5 million in the project. That’s a huge commitment, and it shows how dedicated our local representatives are to helping their communities. Meanwhile, MEC is committing about $15 million, and the ROBIN grant will contribute roughly $25 million.

We have begun construction in some areas, and it will continue through 2026. Additionally, we will be able to bring fiber to roughly 8,000 “served” addresses as part of our build-out, thereby giving those residents and businesses another option for broadband.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF)

This project began in 2021. If you’re interested, we have more details in the May 2021 issue of Country Lines, which can be found at

With a $37 million investment from the FCC, RDOF is helping us fund a project to bring fiber to over 33,000 unserved and underserved addresses in rural southern Michigan. “Unserved and underserved” for this project was defined by the FCC as those who lack speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

We’re currently in our third year of construction and will continue through 2026. Like with the ROBIN project, we are also able to provide fiber to adjacent addresses considered “served” by the FCC.

Local Agreements

We’ve also had some agreements with local governments, such as Oronoko Township and Washtenaw County, to serve specific residents in those areas. These projects are a result of local officials working directly with MEC to help fund fiber builds in their area and are a great example of how engaging with your local representatives can bring significant change to your community.

When we launched our fiber pilot project in 2014, I knew it would be a game changer. That’s why I spent, and continue to spend, countless hours advocating for federal and state support for co-ops and rural residents. I wholeheartedly believe that co-ops are the best equipped to bring this service to rural residents. We live where you live and understand the rural way of life in a way others don’t—or don’t want to.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications.