The first annual Michigan Broadband Summit was held on Sept. 24, 2019, sponsored by the MERIT research and education network, and it was my pleasure to attend on behalf of M-Lab. The gathering was an opportunity to learn more about the amazing work that MERIT, industry, municipalities, cooperatives, school districts and others are doing to improve internet access and service quality in Michigan. I came away inspired by every conversation and presentation, with the keynote from Francella Ochillo from Next Century Cities, and the MERIT team’s presentation of the Moonshot framework being particularly moving.
Sponsored by the MERIT research and education network, the Michigan Broadband Summit provided an opportunity to meet with broadband advocates working to improve service for all Michigan residents, but in particular students in Michigan schools. M-Lab supported MERIT’s Michigan Moonshot pilot initiative, a research study conducted in partnership with Michigan State University’s Quello Center and three school districts in Michigan. The goal of the pilot was to gather data to understand the extent of the homework gap, using a combination of in-class instruction, in-class surveys, and a homework assignment to run an M-Lab NDT test at home after completing an online survey. In addition to using M-Lab tools for testing connections in the classroom and at students’ homes, MERIT has developed an entire framework around the Moonshot project, a comprehensive resource for communities interested in ground-up strategies for closing the digital divide and bringing digital equity to their communities. MERIT will release the Moonshot Framework as an openly licensed online resource, along with the results of the data collection pilot later this fall. You can download an executive summary of the Michigan Moonshot Framework now.
M-Lab’s research collaboration with Simmons University Professor of Library and Information Science under the Institute for Museum and Library Services award #LG-71-18-0110-18 allowed for us to be at the Michigan Broadband Summit, to speak with libraries and library service organizations about participation in the second year of our IMLS program. We were pleased to have many opportunities to meet librarians and school district staff from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As an intermediary organization that provides Internet connectivity to libraries in Michigan, MERIT is a perfect partner for helping to recruit libraries in the state for the second year of this research. We’re looking forward to those follow up conversations.
More generally, MERIT’s work on the Moonshot initiative, and the broadband summit is a superb example of a regional M-Lab partner that is a force for broadband equity, and are using M-Lab tools and data in their research and advocacy initiatives. M-Lab is excited to be a supporting partner in the work of state-wide, regional, and local coalitions like MERIT in Michigan, and look forward to deepening and widening those partnerships in the future. If you are interested in using M-Lab tools and data for similar explorations of broadband access and performance in your own community, please get in touch.