June marks a huge milestone in the southwest Michigan rural broadband revolution as Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) installs its 10,000th high-speed fiber internet customer.
In 2015, MEC launched a five-year plan to deploy fiber internet across its southwest Michigan service territory, leveraging the investment in the two-way fiber communications infrastructure on its distribution system to make the best available high-speed option available to all electric customers. Residents in much of the country’s rural space remain unserved and underserved with true high-speed options, and MEC has established a model and approach that is now being implemented by other cooperatives across the country.
“We heard for many years from our electric customers about the need for options. Many were using satellite, DSL or even dial-up and those platforms just don’t cut it in our increasingly digital world,” said Bob Hance, president/CEO. “As a locally-owned cooperative we are committed to building relevant rural communities and ensuring that geography doesn’t limit someone’s scope of opportunity. Fiber internet is changing the landscape in rural southwest Michigan.
“We knew the interest was there, but never imagined hitting this major milestone inside of the five-year mark,” Hance added. “This speaks both to the need for the service and the quality of service that we’re delivering.”
MEC used a grassroots approach to drive the five-year construction plan. Interested customers submitted expressions of interest, and construction plans proceeded based on the areas with the greatest interest.
“Everyone wanted to be first, and had a compelling reason why they needed to be first. We were in the impossible position of having to determine a construction plan, so we placed that firmly in the hands of our customers,” Hance explained. “Someone was always going to be in Year 5, and we’re finally there.”
MEC is celebrating the 10,000th customer milestone by donating $10,000, targeting organizations in communities that fell into the fifth year of construction.
“These communities may be last, but are not least in any way, shape or form. This is one small way we can thank them for their great patience through this process,” Hance said.
Using partnership support from Wolverine Power Cooperative, MEC is making the following awards in June as part of the 10,000th customer celebration:
- $2,500 to Autumn House in Paw Paw, which provides adult day care services for individuals with memory impairment/dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s and other physical impairments.
- $2,500 to Lending Hands in Portage, which is a medical equipment loan program that lends home medical equipment at no charge for up to seven months.
- $2,000 to the Village of Constantine Parks and Recreation Department to support the purchase and installation of new merry-go-round at the local park.
- $500 to the White Pigeon Care Network to support the White Pigeon Food Pantry.
- $2,500 to the Hartford Public Library to support the Summer Reading Program.