By Jessica Mathews /

President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and a historic investment in high-speed internet access for rural communities was highlighted during a virtual event this week.

$100 (m) million from the infrastructure law will upgrade and expand Michigan’s broadband infrastructure. The Michigan Democratic Party hosted a virtual press conference with the Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier and Allegan County Broadband Action Group Chairperson Austin Marsman. They discussed how the $100 (m) million from President Biden’s infrastructure plan will help shrink the stark digital divide in rural areas of the state and locally and make broadband connection more accessible.

Daubenmier said the investments in broadband will be a game-changer for Livingston County. She commented that “high speed internet in this day and age isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s the way people shop, look for jobs, get medical care, connect with family members. If you don’t have access to decent internet, you’re left out of the community in so many ways”.

Daubenmier said it’s really a question of equity because people have less opportunity when they have poor internet. If someone has internet, she said they can easily go online and apply for a job, order groceries, manage their finances or pay bills and handle other business. If not, Daubenmier said there are lots of obstacles and barriers in that a person must find some other means to access the internet, such as visiting a library, restaurant or coffee shop - all of which pose different challenges.

It was stated the pandemic highlighted the digital divide as the country adapted to a virtual world and showed that some people were being left behind, including Michigan’s rural communities.

In Michigan, 14% of residents don’t have access to internet services in their homes.

This week, it was announced that more than 10 million households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, also funded through the infrastructure law.