Detroit’s Digital Renaissance: How High-Speed Internet is Transforming the City

During the 20th century, Detroit was a thriving automotive hub. Its increased job opportunities and bustling factories invited astounding economic growth and a financial promise to families needing to create generational wealth. But as these car companies got outsourced to other countries for cheaper production, Detroit’s population shrunk alongside its prosperity. 

Though this synopsis of the Michigan city may be the rampant narrative, there’s much more to Detroit than an outsider’s perspective. Detroit is an incredible place for art and music, as well as culinary and nightlife diversity. On top of this city’s creative outlets, it has become a surprising new hub for tech opportunities. 

Today, high-speed internet and technology are revolutionizing Detroit, with business owners and city officials wanting to implement them for individual and community affluence. Local initiatives are beginning to strive for a Smart City with universally accessible WiFi to upgrade popular industries and pull residents out of poverty.

What is a Smart City? 

Cities worldwide have started to use high-speed internet to solve widespread issues with automation and analysis. Aptly named “Smart Cities,” these areas turn to AI and the internet to achieve sustainability, streamline technical operations, and provide problem-solving technology to their residents. 

An example of high-speed internet in a Smart City is finding available parking spots in busy areas. Through the power of the internet, monitoring technology instantly updates with open spots on various roads and streets, which can be found through a simple phone app. A self-updating parking app through high-speed internet can instantaneously improve the lives of the city’s hard-working citizens. 

City officials are quickly turning to automation to solve problems and provide residents with a better, stress-free life. Detroit is one of those cities that is harnessing internet power for urban revitalization, education advancements, and economic opportunities. 

Free Internet Access  

The primary goal Detroit is initiating is giving all its residents free high-speed internet. More than 220,000 people live at or below the poverty line in the city proper. 100,000 of those people live entirely off the grid, with no regular usage of WIFI or data.

Living below the poverty line often means purchasing and installing a modem with quality internet is low on the list of priorities. But in a world where jobs and education revolve around WiFi connections, residents have the right to access high-speed internet no matter their income. 

Over the past six years, the city of Detroit has partnered with community organizations to establish eight different technology hubs for accessible internet. The initiative, known as EII (the Equitable Internet Initiative), is a collaborative effort between nonprofit groups to build WiFi centers to give everyone digital access and literacy.   

The Equitable Internet Initiative also trains community members as technicians, who can then operate and troubleshoot these internet hubs for the people in their community. Making steps toward universal high-speed internet connection is the most crucial place to start when working towards a Smart City goal. 

Global Tech 

With the added technological initiatives and increased budget for automation, Detroit has slowly become a hub for tech companies worldwide. Over the past ten years, tech companies have pivoted towards midwest cities to establish a headquarters or office. With cities like San Fransisco overrun with corporations and experiencing excessive rent increases, higher-ups are looking at more affordable spots for tech development. 

In 2015, Amazon set up a new tech hub in Detroit’s downtown area, hiring hundreds of local software engineers and developers to join their team. Microsoft similarly announced a tech center in 2017 to increase economic opportunities for its company and Michigan residents. Microsoft also connected local entrepreneurs and companies with state-of-the-art tech for advanced problem-solving and data analysis. 

Automotive Changes

Though Detroit has had a well-documented divot in its automotive industry, it’s still one of the leading spots in America for car manufacturing. This has led to massive attention on modernizing the industry within Michigan, attracting tech companies nationwide. 

Much of the innovation, product design, and tech development for car manufacturing is happening in Detroit and the surrounding area. Over the last few years, the auto industry has become an updated and thriving arena for software developers and engineers. The power of high-speed internet has revolutionized auto-mobility corporations, revitalizing Detroit and changing its economic reputation.  

Thriving Businesses 

Rapidly changing technology and the power of high-speed internet have changed the game for Detroit entrepreneurs. Today, the Michigan city has become a home for software development and startups. Through this period of innovation, local startups have reached “unicorn” status, meaning their business is worth over $1 billion.  

These local entrepreneurs are changing the face of innovation, sustainability, and connectivity. Greenlancer, an online project management team, is creating technology to improve the accessibility of solar power energy. They’re designing and supplying EV charging and solar power designs. These solutions and designers are available for builders and architects looking to include solar sustainability in their infrastructure. 

Cybersecurity startups are another blooming group of entrepreneurs in the Detroit area. Trustpage and Hush are revolutionizing online privacy and offering services to other businesses around the country. The former company provides automation and security analyses for optimal privacy while using the internet. 

Each of these businesses relies on fast and reliable internet for their creation and their individual offerings. As Detroit establishes itself as a tech-friendly city, more entrepreneurs and local industries will benefit from automation and streamlining. 

Updating Education  

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has begun providing students with technology to keep up their education. The Detroit Public Schools Community Program and other local organizations came together to give Michigan students wireless tablets

The tablet initiative gave over 40,000 students and families free in-home WiFi, which bolstered their education and digital literacy. The local government quickly subsidized other necessary devices throughout 2021, leading to DPSCP’s Connected Futures initiative. 

The Connected Futures Program’s goal revolves around educational change through promoting long-lasting digital usage. Government money and donations are invested in free devices for Detroit students, which is necessary when our future relies on people who understand advanced technology and software.