Mitchell Shapiro has worked as an independent consultant and author in the telecommunication industry for more than 30 years. For the past decade he has applied his broad and deep knowledge of technology, policy and business issues to the challenge of expanding broadband and its benefits in underserved rural areas. Most recently this included a 2019 REI co-learning plan entitled Electric Cooperatives and the Digital Divide: Helping Connect Rural Americans to 21st Century Opportunity. His work in this area has also included a guidebook examining risks and opportunities for municipal utilities considering investments in in publicly-owned fiber optic networks. Working with MSU's Quello Center, Mitchell has co-authored: 1) a report examining 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.
Following up on his REI co-learning plan examining issues and strategies related to the potential for rural electric cooperatives (RECs) to help bridge the digital divide, Mitchell’s Innovation Fellowship will focus on aligning a broad range of stakeholder resources to more effectively expand broadband and its benefits in rural Michigan. This will include the state’s RECs as well as its regional planning association (RPOs), local governments and community anchor institutions (CAIs). The project will also support efforts to effectively leverage the expertise and longstanding Michigan-focused experience of Connected Nation Michigan, as well as the recently launched Michigan Moonshot project. The Moonshot project is a statewide effort to expand rural broadband led by Merit Network, a nonprofit university-owned network operator that has been providing high-performance communication services to the state’s educational and CAI community for more than 50 years.