Efforts to map high-speed internet availability in Cass County at a parcel level are slated to begin the last week of August. The effort to develop a countywide map of internet availability is intended to prepare Cass County to maximize access to forthcoming federal grant funds that will expand rural internet access.
In May, Cass County was awarded a $100,000 grant award from the Michigan Department of Rural Development’s Rural Development Fund to develop a parcel-level, GIS-based map of internet availability in Cass County. When complete, this interactive digital map will show which plots of land in Cass County have access to internet, and which do not.
The mapping effort is important, as in early 2024 roughly $5.5 billion in grant funds from the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program will be made available to support high-speed internet planning and infrastructure deployment. The current mapping efforts will ensure that Cass County receives as much benefit as possible from the BEAD program.
“There is no federal or state map of Cass County internet availability that is accurate to the individual parcel. In some areas, the public data about internet availability has an accuracy rate of under 50 percent,” said Chris Scharrer, Director of OSP Planning at DCS Technology Design. “Through the mapping process, it is not uncommon for us to find homes and businesses that are incorrectly reported as having internet access. This is a problem, as it excludes the parcels from benefiting from grant programs.”
Cass County stakeholders have sought assistance in expanding access to high-speed internet because doing so would improve the lives of residents and success of businesses.
“Access to high-speed internet levels the playing field between urban and rural communities,” said Cass County Administrator Matthew Newton. “We know there are Cass County residents missing out on educational resources, access to healthcare, and remote work opportunities because they do not have high-speed internet access. The more homes and businesses we can get connected to the internet, the better off Cass community and residents will be.”
Securing the funding for this mapping project was a collaborative effort between Cass County and its economic development partner, Market Van Buren.
“This project illustrates the power of collaboration to drive community development,” said Zach Morris, Executive Director at Market Van Buren. “When we saw the Rural Development Fund Grant, we knew the opportunity aligned with the County’s desire for an internet availability map. Our Programs and Projects Manager, Sarah Snoeyink, added the capacity the County needed to secure and manage this grant, so we are now one step closer to high-speed internet being available to every home in Cass County.”
Employees of DCS Technology Design will be actively mapping the County through mid-October. During this time, residents can expect to see vehicles marked with the DCS Technology name and logo. They will make frequent stops as they document each area and may stop and walk some areas to locate buried systems or cables in easements.
A final report of survey findings is expected to be delivered in November and will be made available online. Residents can keep up to date with which areas are being actively mapped by following updates on the County’s Facebook page.