President Biden’s new infrastructure package, including an investment in high-speed internet, could help reverse the economic slide of smaller, industrial cities in Michigan and across America, according to John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center.

In a recent op ed in the Lansing State Journal, Mr. Austin cites a groundbreaking study by Public Policy Associates, Inc. (PPA) on the digital divide for the National Education Association in 2020. That report found that one in four school-age children in the U.S. does not have the digital tools at home to support remote learning. A fact especially crucial during the Covid pandemic, which dramatically increased remote learning.

Mr. Austin also writes in the op ed that Michigan “is a particular laggard in connecting small town and rural communities.” He noted that the PPA research found 42% of Michigan children in non-metropolitan households lack full digital access.

Mr. Austin states Midwestern states have the greatest need and thus the most to gain from infrastructure improvements that are crucial to economic success. Northern Michigan communities, such as Marquette and Traverse City, have experienced economic growth in recent years in part because of enhanced high-speed internet access. That has allowed professionals to work and operate businesses “while enjoying a glorious lifestyle community on the Great Lakes.”

PPA has done extensive research on the digital divide in Michigan and nationwide. For more information, contact Dr. Daniel Quinn, PPA’s director of education policy, at