Great Lakes Energy receives grant to expand fiber optic network

Fremont Area Community Foundation pledges $5 million to support broadband internet access in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo counties

Fremont Area Community Foundation has pledged financial support to Great Lakes Energy for expansion of the fiber optic network to rural areas of Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo counties.

Fremont Area Community Foundation has pledged financial support to Great Lakes Energy for expansion of the fiber optic network to rural areas of Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo counties.

Photo courtesy of the FACF

Rural areas of Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties may soon be able to experience better internet service with the expansion of Great Lakes Energy fiber network.

The Fremont Area Community Foundation announced in a news release recently that they have awarded a $5 million mission-related investment to Great Lakes Energy to expand local access to broadband internet service in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo counties.

The investment will support Great Lakes Energy’s expansion of their Truestream fiber network, empowering more rural residents with access to internet connections needed for work, school and telehealth, the release said. 

In Mecosta County, a quarter of the population lacks access to broadband. In Osceola and Lake counties it is over 70% and in Newaygo County about 53%, according to the release. 

The lack of internet creates significant barriers to working and studying from home, accessing telehealth services and completing important tasks, such as looking for a new job or filing taxes, the release said.

“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,” president and CEO of the FACF, Shelly Kasprzycki, said. “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,” Kasprzycki said in the release. “Great Lakes Energy has an over 85-year history in our state, and we are proud to partner with them on this important project.”

Maria Gonzales, senior director with FACF explained that a “mission-related” investment is similar to a program related investment in that they are providing financial assistance for an organization to move forward with a particular project.

“In this particular case, it is referred to it as a mission related program because it is not necessarily a program we would typically fund, but it meets the mission of the community foundation to enhance the quality of life in the areas we serve,” Gonzales said.

Great Lakes Energy is the largest member-owned power company in Michigan, serving rural parts of 26 counties in western Michigan, the release said. They provide electric service to nearly 29,000 homes and businesses in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Newaygo 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,” Shaun Lamp, president and CEO of Great Lakes Energy and Truestream, said. “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.