Fremont Area Community Foundation recently awarded a $5 million mission-related investment to Great Lakes Energy to expand local access to broadband internet service in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties.
The investment will support Great Lakes Energy’s expansion of their Truestream fiber network, empowering more rural residents with access to the internet connections they need for work, school, and telehealth. The expansion is slated to impact all four counties served by the Community Foundation, including its three geographic affiliate foundations.
Approximately 53 percent of people in Newaygo County do not have broadband access, according to FCC data. While numbers are more encouraging in Mecosta County, a quarter of the population still lacks access to broadband. In Lake and Osceola counties, the number is over 70 percent. This creates significant barriers to working and studying from home, accessing telehealth services, and completing important tasks like looking for a new job or filing taxes. Affordable access to reliable internet can also create new possibilities for business expansion and increased home sales.
“Rural areas like ours are still not widely served by the reliable, high-speed internet that is now a necessity for most people and businesses,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are excited to support the local expansion of broadband service.”
Kasprzycki noted that a mission-related investment is a unique, flexible tool that philanthropic organizations can use to create positive impacts in a community beyond regular grantmaking programs.
“Unlike a typical grant, a mission-related investment is repaid, and because these investments are recovered, it allows our resources to go farther and be used again,” said Kasprzycki. “Great Lakes Energy has an over 85-year history in our state, and we’re proud to partner with them on this important project.”
Great Lakes Energy is the largest member-owned power company in Michigan, serving rural parts of 26 counties in western Michigan. They provide electric service to nearly 29,000 homes and businesses in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties. They launched Truestream, a fiber internet and voice service, in 2018 to provide connections to underserved and unserved rural areas. Nearly 4,000 miles of fiber line has already been installed in 10 counties and nearly 16,000 homes and businesses have been connected.
“This partnership with the Fremont Area Community Foundation furthers our goal to bring internet and voice services to our members,” said Shaun Lamp, president and CEO of Great Lakes Energy and Truestream. “We have already begun expanding the Truestream network in Newaygo County and with this investment will continue the momentum to connect more homes and businesses to life-changing fiber service.”
For more information about Great Lakes Energy’s Truestream network visit truestreamfiber.com.