WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Preliminary findings of a broadband access survey in Washtenaw County found that nearly two-thirds of households in the study don’t have a minimal level of broadband internet service.
The Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force released its initial data from a survey sent out to 15 townships earlier this year. In the preliminary summary, the task force said 64% of households participating in the study don’t have a minimal level of broadband service. The minimum standard for speed is a download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 megabits per second.
The survey also found that 57% of K-12 students in the 15 townships do not have high speed broadband access at home, according to a presentation at the Wednesday, May 20 county Board of Commissioners virtual meeting.
“These are families that are trying to teach their children right now,” Commissioner Shannon Beeman, D-Manchester, said at the meeting. “These are people who can’t access tele-medicine. These are people trying to do their jobs remotely right now in this COVID-19 world that we’re in.”
The survey had a 23% response rate, with nearly 7,200 residents submitting their survey either online or by mail, Washtenaw County spokeswoman Lisa Moutinho said.
The findings suggest that Federal Communications Commission data over-reports the share of households with broadband in the county. The FCC claims 18.5% of households in these townships don’t have minimal access to broadband, Jason Maciejewski, D-Dexter, said.
Maciejewski attributes this to the way FCC reports broadband access. The data is compiled per census block in a binary: if at least one household has broadband, then the area is reported to have broadband access.
The county’s survey shows that lack of broadband access particularly affects the southwest corner of Washtenaw County. That includes Bridgewater, Manchester, Freedom and Sharon townships.
Washtenaw County leaders have a goal of achieving broadband equity in the county by 2022. The Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force is a Board of Commissioners-appointed group studying countywide broadband equity. The task force will use the survey data to write grant proposals, officials have said.
About 8,000 Washtenaw County households do not have access to broadband internet, the standard for fast, reliable internet access, according to a report from the county in November 2018. In the Chelsea School District, 40% of households are unserved by broadband. In Manchester Community Schools, nearly 70% are unserved.
MORE FROM THE ANN ARBOR NEWS: