Through the on-going Gogebic Range Next Generation Initiative, we are collaborating with many community partners to strengthen and promote our many assets to attract and retain young people. But we also understand that we need to also work on one area of our community that needs improvement, namely broadband, in order to be successful in our efforts to attract and retain young people. We know that many young people would not even consider moving to an area that does not offer strong, reliable internet access. We also know that many businesses will not move here, or adequately grow without good band width. And most recently we have learned that lakefront property owners will be much more likely to live in our community year-round, or at least stay here longer, if they could access the internet. Same for tourists.
Many areas of Iron County have good internet access, but many don’t.
To learn more, in late 2013 we conducted a survey of 312 area residents, businesses, schools and local government officials and learned that 96% believe that internet connection was critical or very important and that 90% had internet access. On the other hand, 25% believed that their existing service was inadequate for their needs, mostly due to lack of speed and consistency. In response, we created the Gogebic Range Broadband committee. This committee has been meeting monthly in 2014 and has established goals to increase awareness and education regarding broadband and to seek ways to improve the area’s broadband connections.
Most recently, the committee has been collaborating with Connect Michigan and Link Wisconsin to learn more about how we can improve our connectivity. We are currently in the process of conducting needs assessments, mapping areas of broadband coverage and building relationships with broadband providers to partner on our shared goal of enhancing the area’s broadband connections.
We continue to build on our nature-based outdoor recreation niche as a way to better attract and retain young people, and people of all ages. Now we’re adding the element of working to build our internet presence to support these efforts, while also supporting local businesses and the tourism business.