Coldwater, Michigan, Has Thirst for Fiber Upgrades

The community of Coldwater, Michigan, is considering an upgrade to its existing community network cable infrastructure by investing in fiber optic upgrades to connect homes and businesses. In the coming months, the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU) will create a formal recommendation to the city council. If the city moves forward with the project, they plan to replace their current Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) with faster, more reliable Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure.

Connecting More Utilities

Last March, CPBU approved a $40,000 proposal for Apsen Wireless to provide design services for upgrading the city’s 1997 fiber backbone. CPBU Director Jeff Budd called for major upgrades in order to maintain reliability, enhance security of the network, and to connect more water, wastewater, and energy utility systems facilities. The connections are necessary to monitor operations and to provide automatic meter reading capabilities. According to Coldwater city staff, by using their own network, the city is able to cut costs by $250,000 per year.

Examining an Upgrade

CPBU also asked Aspen to provide an estimate for the cost of a fiber upgrade for residential and business connections citywide. Aspen worked with Marshall and Traverse City, other Michigan communities that have invested in fiber optic infrastructure for better connectivity. Coldwater is working with Marshall by providing after-hours service calls for Marshall's FiberNet.

In mid November, members of the board and community leaders at a joint meeting between the CBPU and city council discussed the potential expansion of fiber to commercial and residential subscribers, phase two of the city's infrastructure upgrade. Budd estimated that the project would take two years to complete and will cost at least $4 million.

In comparison, the CBPU spent $4.5 million to purchase a cable system from a private provider in 1997; the city paid off the bond they issued to purchase the system in 2017. With the emergence of Coldwater as an ISP, “there was always a $20 to $30 difference in rates inside and outside the city” says Telecommunications Manager Jeff Poole. Now that streaming services are becoming more popular, decision makers at CBPU consider FTTH an upgrade that will help ensure the future of the city's network. CBPU offers Skitter TV, a streaming service that has attracted 800 of the city's 1,800 Internet access subscribers, writes the Daily Reporter.

Poole also noted that, with the growing innovations in smart city applications, smart home applications, and an increasing number of devices used in every home, bandwidth demands continue to grow. 

Poole pointed out “rates don’t change, only the improvements in service.” He added 100 Mbps service costs the same as 1 gigabit per second to build and operate, so the CBPU proposal is being built for future needs not just what is in place now.


Image of Waterworks Park in Coldwater by Notjake13 [Public domain]