Broadband Expansion Efforts

broadband 2Current Efforts & Timeline

Update on Broadband Expansion Efforts as of June 21, 2023

On June 20, 2023, the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office announced its initial recommendations for the Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) program. This program will potentially bring reliable, high-speed broadband service to over 6,300 residents and businesses in Van Buren County, 3,476 of which currently lack access. 

Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) submitted a $56.4 million application for ROBIN funding to expand internet service in Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. The application included a $15.5 million investment from MEC and requested $27.6 million from the State. Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties, along with townships and villages in the proposed counties committed over $13 million. 

If granted the full award, MEC will bring fiber internet to rural areas in Van Buren County. This would include approximately 92% of the homes in Van Buren County that currently lack access to high-speed internet. If fully awarded, the County will commit over $4.1 million, and 12 townships will commit nearly $1.4 million. MEC will begin construction in the fall of 2023 and will finish by the end of 2026. Customers will get activated once construction in their specific area is complete, and those exact plans have yet to be determined. 

The ROBIN program now enters a 45-day objection period, and final awards will be determined after objections have been validated. The State expects to make final award announcements in August 2023 and stresses that not all applications will receive full funding due to the objections. 

 Learn More About This Announcement: 

  • Local Press Release: To see a full press release from Van Buren County and MEC on this new development, click here to access a PDF copy. 
  • Statewide Press Release: To see the State of Michigan’s press release on this announcement, click here to access an online copy.
  • Map of Initial Award Locations: To explore the addresses awarded to MEC as a part of the initial award announcements, click here to open the ROBIN award maps. Once the link has opened, select “Approved Addresses” from the map key on the right side of the screen. 
  • List of Initially Awarded Projects: To explore the projects throughout the State that were initially awarded and learn more about the grant program itself, click here to review the State’s ROBIN webpage.

 The County will provide an update to this information following the final ROBIN award announcement in August 2023.

 Efforts to expand internet access to the remaining parcels that will not be served by this grant program are ongoing. To learn more, you may review previous updates available below. 

Previous Updates


In March of 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocated roughly $14.6 million to Van Buren County. One of the primary allowable uses for these funds is supporting the expansion of affordable broadband access. In the months following the passage of ARPA, the Van Buren County Internet Task Force began to meet regularly to discuss available funding and a path forward.

In January 2022, the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners voted to allocate $7 million of ARPA funds to support the expansion of rural broadband in Van Buren County.  While $7 million is a sizable investment in broadband expansion, it will not be enough to fully cover or subsidize the cost of bringing broadband service to every unserved and underserved parcel in Van Buren County.  The County will pursue additional funding sources as it is essential to be judicious in the allocation of these limited ARPA funds.

Van Buren County desires to make the most informed decisions about how to allocate ARPA funds in support of rural broadband expansion; therefore, it is essential to have accurate, detailed maps of broadband infrastructure and availability so that funding can be appropriately and effectively allocated within the community.

Why Does High-Speed Internet Access Matter?

Increased internet access has a wide number of benefits for a community. Generally speaking, it allows for community members to enjoy increased access to educational, healthcare, and economic opportunities. More specifically, according to the State of Michigan's Office of High-Speed Internet, increased internet access can provide the following benefits:pexels-august-de-richelieu-4261790

  • "Students with high-speed, home internet access have an overall grade point average of 3.18. This is significantly higher than the average 2.81 GPA for students with no home access and 2.75 average for students with only cell phone access.
  • Increased access to the internet can help address issues of isolation among older adults. Studies have shown that isolation is associated with worse health outcomes and even premature death among adults aged 50 and over.
  • Effective use of telemedicine can reduce hospitalizations of nursing home patients and reduce health care costs.
  • Small businesses that have websites have higher annual revenues and are more likely to have recently hired one or more employees than similar businesses that aren't online. Those that use social media weekly are three times more likely to have been hired recently than those that don't.
  • A study of manufacturers found that 40% said they were able to add new customers and 57% said they saved money because of their high-speed internet connection.
  • Farmers who gain high-speed internet access experience an average 6% increase in farm revenue.
  • Having a home broadband connection gives households an estimated economic impact of $1,850 per year."


Please direct questions regarding broadband expansion or mapping efforts to [email protected].