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Electric Cooperatives and the Digital Divide: Helping Connect Rural Americans to 21st Century Opportunity (2019)

Co-Learning Plan - 2019

Authors: Mitchell Shapiro, Independent Consultant


The task of bringing high speed Internet to America's rural communities remains a challenging and painfully unfinished one, aggravating the existing economic and social divides these communities face. To help address this challenge, certain rural energy cooperatives (RECs)—including three in Michigan—have begun deploying high-speed fiber optic networks to better connect their members. This project examines the experience of these pioneers and related factors to develop a body of information, analysis, and recommendations to inform strategies aimed at expanding broadband, and the benefits it can bring to underserved rural communities.

Author Information

Mitchell ShapiroMitchell Shapiro, Independent Consultant 

Mitchell Shapiro has been analyzing the telecommunication industry for more than 30 years as a consultant and writer. In 2008, he co-authored a guidebook published by the Public Technology Institute to support municipal utilities considering investments in publicly-owned fiber optic networks. More recently, working with MSU's Quello Center, Mitchell co-authored: 1) a report funded by Merit Network and its counterparts in five other states that explored innovative technologies and strategies to extend broadband connectivity; and 2) a public policy brief funded by MSU's Institute of Public Policy and Social Research focused on strategies for bridging Michigan's digital divides. Mitchell holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in telecommunications from Michigan State University.

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