Wireless Oakland consists of three major goals:
Create public-private partnerships to ensure that all citizens in Oakland County have access to affordable broadband internet. Also, leverage access to public assets so that some level of free internet service could be provided to the Oakland County residents by the private sector.
County staff has continued efforts to implement the Wireless Oakland strategy. Those efforts have resulted in a potential partnership with Air Advantage, a Michigan based telecommunications company. Air Advantage was awarded $65 million in grants and loans from the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). Per the Federal Guidelines, the funding can only be used to provide broadband service rural communities in the Thumb and portions of Southeast Michigan. Their proposed fee based service area includes portions of northern and western Oakland County.
The funding awarded to Air Advantage will allow them to become one of the only companies to provide broadband services to Oakland County residents in these areas, bringing those residents this much needed critical infrastructure.
In addition to providing for-fee services in their complete service area, Air Advantage will create free “wifi” hotspots in various downtown areas including the City of the Village of Clarkston, the Village of Holly and the Village of Oxford in exchange for access to County assets.
Providing residents with access to high speed broadband is critical to the attraction and retention of citizens and businesses that participate in the knowledge economy. The proposed coverage area has typically been underserved, and the provision of both the basic infrastructure and a free component would greatly contribute to the local economy.
Provide technical training to those residents within Oakland County to prepare our citizens for the economy and workforce of tomorrow. Success will be dependent upon bringing together foundations, grants, public sector partnerships, private sector partnerships, and the educational community in Oakland County.
County staff has continued to seek methods and partnerships to bring this goal to fruition, and achieved success through a partnership with Michigan State University (MSU). MSU compiled an application for ARRA funds to increase computer capacity in libraries across the state. County staff worked diligently to poll all the libraries in the County to determine their interest in participation, and ensured that those that were interested were included in the MSU application, which was awarded the requested funding.
Through these efforts, Oakland County libraries will receive additional computers that will represent more than a 25% increase in computer capacity for participating libraries. This application was submitted for the first round of funding, and represented an investment of $195,000 for Oakland County libraries. MSU also requested funding in a second round, and received $448,000 that will be targeted specifically toward City of Pontiac libraries, public housing centers, and other computer centers.
On the training side of this goal, Oakland County also applied for and received US Department of Labor funding to pilot a program that would provide the technical training required to retool unemployed automotive engineers as defense engineers. Under this program, the County partnered with Lawrence Technological University (LTU) and was awarded $195,000 to cover the cost of the program for 25 Oakland County residents. In total, the efforts of County staff on the second goal of Wireless Oakland resulted in over $830,000 worth of investment in technology and training for Oakland County residents.
Develop a guidebook to assist local government agencies within Oakland County as they embrace the knowledge economy and prepare their community planning documents, zoning regulations, and processes to facilitate future technology investments.
It has become clear over the last two decades that a major economic shift is occurring in the United States, and particularly Michigan. The economy is changing from industry and manufacturing to the knowledge economy, which is based on technology, knowledge, and the management of information.
The Technology Planning Toolkit for Local Governments was completed in the Spring of 2009, and provides a framework for local governments to follow to update their community processes to encourage technology firms to locate within their community. The Toolkit includes observations, recommendations, practical techniques, and model language for communities to use in reviewing and modifying their plans, policies, ordinances and procedures.
In 2009, the federal government indicated that there would be ARRA funding available to increase broadband availability, and broadband adoption in the United States. Seeing the synergy between the high level goals of the federal funding and Wireless Oakland, the County provided written testimony and a response to a Request for Information to attempt to influence the development of the rules so that all Oakland County residents could benefit from the funding.
In the end, the rules were written in such a way that only those residents in the rural areas of the County could benefit from the funding designated for expanding broadband service, and there would be limited funding to for programs designed to increase adoption in urban and suburban areas.
Working within the constraints set by the federal government, County staff still pursued partnerships to attempt to ensure the interests of all County residents were represented in efforts to obtain federal funding.