By Jessica Mathews /

A resolution to support affordable countywide broadband access has been adopted by the Northfield Township Board.

The board met virtually in a special meeting on Tuesday night and approved the resolution, which states access to high-speed broadband is not available to many residents and businesses or is prohibitively expensive. It notes the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the need and “absolute necessity of digital connectivity”.

It was stated that 12-13% of properties in Northfield Township do not currently have broadband or roughly 471 homes, which one board member felt might have been low.

The township board has been discussing how to best utilize federal funds it will be receiving through the American Rescue Plan, which specifically identifies the construction of high-speed broadband infrastructure as an encouraged use of the funds.

The Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force has been working to achieve county-wide coverage. Representative LJ Walter told the board the resolution doesn’t require anything from the township or funding, it’s just a formal statement of support for the task force to request from the county about $14 (m) million to disperse to municipalities to flush out broadband support. It was stated later in the meeting that the township will likely eventually be asked to have participation to some extent.

Members agreed there is a need to improve broadband access but also that there are many other pressing needs in the township.

Trustee Jacki Otto said she believes that broadband is something that with COVID really caught their attention, noting they never had the funds prior to do anything like this but have now been given an opportunity to do something. Otto said she doesn’t want to put all of their eggs in one basket but feels it’s still a good opportunity to give it to at least the 471 homes that don’t have it.

Supervisor Ken Dignan state he’s been working with several residents who say their homes are in complete dead zones and trying to explore options, including testing some new equipment from an un-named provider. He commented that broadband is certainly important but he’s also received calls from those interested in spending funds to provide better safety and security for people walking as well as better access to health care services – noting there are no doctors, clinics or even a pharmacy located in the township.

The board unanimously adopted the Task Force resolution to advance to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.