Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "holland mi"
In early August, the city of Holland, Michigan (pop. 33,000) voted to fund the construction of a citywide, open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. It’s the culmination of almost a decade of consideration, education, planning, and success, and builds on decades of work by the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) and city officials to build and maintain resilient essential infrastructure for its citizens. It also signals the work the community has done to listen to local residents, community anchor institutions, and the business owners in pushing for an investment that will benefit every premises equally and ensure fast, affordable Internet access is universally available for decades down the road.
In the Works
Holland has been formally exploring the need for better local connectivity since before 2016. It has been aided in this effort by the fact that the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW), which already provides electricity, water, and waste water services, has been maintaining a small institutional fiber network that it first installed in 1992 (see current coverage in map, right, current as of May 2019).
Visitors to libraries across the country are being greeted with signs declaring, “Library Closed,” in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. But increasingly, those words are followed by the ones seen outside Schlow Centre Region Library in State College, Pennsylvania: “Park for Free Wi-Fi.”
As the Covid-19 outbreak pushes almost all daily functions online, libraries, schools, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are finding themselves on the front lines of responding to their communities’ connectivity needs — especially those of students. Nationwide, these broadband first responders are working rapidly to open and deploy public Wi-Fi hotspots that families can access from the safety of their parked cars.
Even before the current crisis, the “homework gap” meant that 7 million school-age children did not have Internet access at home, hampering their ability to get an education. Now, the digital divide is being thrown into even starker relief, as students struggle to access online classes and school districts grapple with equity concerns.
Though it isn’t a permanent solution to the homework gap, these community institutions and providers hope that the emergency Wi-Fi access will give students on the wrong side of the divide a chance to learn while schools are shut down.
Students Trade Desks for Cars
Earlier this week, the American Library Association (ALA) recommended that libraries leave their Wi-Fi turned on and accessible while facilities are closed. In a press release, ALA stated:
Holland, Michigan, has now officially transitioned from construction into operation of their downtown fiber optic network.
After a spring decision to expand the range of the initial pilot project, community leaders began contemplating the possibility of offering Internet access directly to the public. Local residents and businesses had long remained unsatisfied with the options they had from incumbents AT&T and Comcast. Entrepreneurs and business owners took to pressuring elected officials into making more use of the community’s existing fiber to improve connectivity.
Holland Board of Public Works (BPW), which had deployed the fiber in the 1990s, used its fiber infrastructure for electric utility purposes and had already been offering wholesale services to a limited number of local businesses. They’ve taken a slow and steady approach toward their pilot and expansion efforts in order to investigate all the options as they move forward.
As in the case of pilots in Westfield, Massachusetts, or Owensboro, Kentucky, the success of the pilot in Holland will help determine whether or not the BPW will extend the network to more residents and businesses. According to the Holland Sentinel, BPW had connected 96 downtown subscribers to the network as of September 13th. The new connections will generate approximately $135,720 in annual revenue and BPW is still taking subscribers at their website.
Subscribers can sign up for symmetrical gigabit access for $85 per month or enhanced gigabit connections for $220 per month. The latter offers additional features that businesses are most likely to need, such as static IP addresses, service level agreements, and priority restoration.
Helping Out Neighbors, Too
Holland, Michigan’s Board of Public Works (BPW) is in the process of incrementally deploying a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network and will offer Internet access to local subscribers. Holland BPW will also deploy fiber to the nearby town of Hudsonville to a new downtown development.
Upgrading Downtown Hudsonville
Located about 15 miles northeast of Holland, the community of approximately 7,300 received a $1 million state grant to help pay for redevelopment in Hudsonville’s downtown. They’ve been working on the plan to make the area more walkable for more than 10 years in order to appeal to older residents and millennials.
Because the project involves significant excavation of streets and sidewalks, planners have taken the opportunity to install conduit for fiber. Because about 90 percent of the cost of underground fiber deployment is attributed to the price of digging up rights-of-way, Hudsonville’s smart conduit decisions will make it easier for Holland BPW to bring high speed Internet access to the project area.
BPW’s fiber runs along the main road to Hudsonville and through the center of town; the presence of this fiber will make deployment easier and expedite BPW’s ability to connect premises.
As part of the expansion, BPW will have the opportunity to offer gigabit connectivity to Hudsonville’s new coworking space, Terra Square. As soon as a minimum of 12 subscribers commit to service from Holland BPW, construction will begin. BPW is using the same demand aggregation approach as they decide where to deploy in Holland neighborhoods, although the number of required commitments varies depending on factors such as density and geography of each neighborhood.
Daniel Morrison, a local resident who writes for the HollandFiber grassroots group website, wrote:
I was initially tempted to complain, “why Hudsonville before my home?” but we should see this a good thing. It further solidifies that Holland BPW is an ISP. It shows their intent to go into new areas. We expect to hear a plan for going into Holland neighborhoods soon. We’ll be working to push that forward as soon as we can.
Check out this map of Holland BPW Fiber:
Torpedo legislation aimed at municipal network initiatives don’t usually appear in October, but Michigan’s year-round legislature is making 2017 atypical. Last week, Freshman Representative Michele Hoitenga from the rural village of Manton in Wexford County introduced a bill banning investment in municipal networks.
HB 5099 is short; it decrees that local communities cannot use federal, state, or their own funds to invest in even the slowest Internet infrastructure, if they choose to do it themselves:
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 13B. (1) EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (2), A LOCAL UNIT SHALL NOT USE ANY FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL FUNDS OR LOANS TO PAY FOR THE COST OF PROVIDING QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE. (2) A LOCAL UNIT MAY ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH 1 OR MORE PRIVATE PARTIES TO PROVIDE QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE. (3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, "QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE" MEANS HIGH-SPEED INTERNET SERVICE AT A SPEED OF AT LEAST 10 MBPS UPSTREAM AND 1 MBPS DOWNSTREAM.
The exception allows local communities to engage in public-private partnerships, but the bill’s ambiguous language is likely to discourage local communities from pursuing such partnerships. As we’ve seen from partnerships that have successfully brought better connectivity to towns such as Westminster, Maryland, communities often took the initiative to invest in the infrastructure prior to establishing a partnership. Typically, the infrastructure attracts a private sector partner. If a community in Michigan wants to pursue a partnership that suits the exception of HB 5099, they will first have to grapple with the chicken and the egg dilemma.
Rather than put themselves at risk of running afoul of the law, prudent community leaders would probably choose to avoid pursuing any publicly owned infrastructure initiatives.
Munis Gaining Ground In Michigan
Community networks are hyper-local movements. As we have researched these networks, we have often uncovered the work of grassroots activists trying to make a difference in their cities. Today, we've gathered together a collection to show how small groups of local people can make a big difference.
Virginia Friends of Municipal Broadband -- This statewide organization of citizens and activists quickly formed in opposition to the proposed Broadband Deployment Act of 2017 in Virginia. They collected statements on why the proposed law would be sour for community networks and published a press kit to help people talk about the issue.
Yellow Springs Community Fiber -- This group formed in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to have the city consider building a community network. They hosted a public forum and created a survey to gauge residents' interest in such a project. They even published a white paper about their proposal, and the city issued an RFP to explore the option.
Upgrade Seattle -- This campaign for equitable Internet access encourages folks to support a municipal network in Washington state's largest city. The Upgrade Seattle group hosts neighborhood study sessions and encourages residents to learn more and attend city council meetings.
Holland Fiber -- Holland, Michigan, has been incrementally building a fiber network, and much of the impetus came from the Holland Fiber group. Local entrepreneurs, business owners, and residents realized that high-speed connectivity would be an asset to this lakeside tourist town.
Holland is expanding its pilot area for municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services in Michigan's Dutch outpost. To explain the past, present, and expected future of muni fiber in Holland, Broadband Services Manager Pete Hoffswell for the Board of Public Works, joins us in episode 269 of the Broadband Bits podcast.
The city has some 25 years of experience with dark fiber and open access with 6 ISPs serving some 200+ business locations. In recent years it has looked to expand that network, starting with a gigabit passive optical network (GPON) network in the higher density areas of downtown.
We discuss the city's decision to become a service provider and plans for further expansion, as well as how the city is reacting to increased investment from the existing cable and telephone companies.
In our discussion, we mention HollandFiber.org
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
The community of Holland, Michigan, has moved carefully and deliberately as it has advanced toward providing better connectivity through publicly owned infrastructure. On June 7th, the City Council held a first reading on an ordinance that will allow the Holland Board of Public Works (BPW) to act as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) as it expands its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project.
Taking Another Step Forward
Holland's pilot project brings high-quality connectivity to several downtown businesses and recently adopted a Master Plan in March to solidify their commitment to more businesses and residents. The ordinance will receive a public hearing, final reading, and likely be adopted on July 19th. It allows Holland to adopt fees and charges related to the new service and will permit the city to comply with a state law relating to rights-of-way and telecommunications providers.
In addition to offering Internet access themselves, BPW will open up the fiber so competing providers can serve Holland residents and businesses. BPW officials are still hashing out rate details, but estimate residential customers who take Internet service from the utility will pay approximately $85 per month for symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabit per second) connectivity. Customers who wish to obtain Internet access from a provider other than BPW will pay $40 - $60 per month for transit services from BPW, but will still need to pay an ISP for Internet access.
One Step At A Time
BPW General Manager Dave Koster explained to City Council members that BPW described the pilot participants’ service so far as “outstanding.” The utility intends to monitor the success of the expanded pilot services for a year and then decide their next step.
Construction will begin in August; BPW expects to start serving new customers in October. BPW officials estimate the expanded pilot will cost $602,000 based on a 35 percent take rate.
In January 2016, Holland, Michigan, made commencing fiber-optic Internet access to residential neighborhoods its number one goal for fiscal year 2017. They’re a little behind schedule, but the town is now moving forward by expanding a pilot project in order to serve a larger downtown area.
It's Really Happening
The Holland Board of Public Works (BPW) held an informational meeting on March 13th to answer questions from the community and share plans for the potential expansion. About a year ago, we reported on the results of a study commissioned by the city in which, based on a take rate of about 40 percent, 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) connectivity would cost residents about $80 per month. Small businesses would pay approximately $85 per month and larger commercial subscriber rates would run around $220 per month. The update on the plan confirms those figures, noting that the four businesses that tested the pilot services had positive experiences. As a result, BPW feels it’s time to expand to more of downtown.
"If it goes really well we hope to be able to expand the service out as far into the community as we can," said Pete Hoffswell, broadband services manager at BPW.
The expansion is planned for construction in June and July, with service testing in August. Actual delivery would be in September, BPW estimates.
BPW will use a boring technique to place conduit and fiber below ground so there will be minimal disruption. No streets will be closed. Next, BPW will get construction bids, evaluate them, and present them to the City Council for approval.
Not An Impulse Decision
Holland has had dark fiber in place for decades for the municipal electric operations. Later BPW extended it to schools and businesses that needed high capacity data services. After years of incremental expansions, the network is now more than 150 fiber miles throughout the city.
Holland, Michigan, continues to pursue better local connectivity and hopes to find a private sector partner interested in using publicly owned fiber.
Recently, the city released a Request for Information (RFI) to reach out to potential partners who might be interested in working with the city for a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) project. Responses are due December 20, 2016.
Developing Over Time
The community of approximately 33,000 people deployed fiber-optic infrastructure in the early 1990s for power smart grid capability for their municipal electric utility. Since then, Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) has expanded the network to provide connectivity for local school facilities and wholesale Internet services to a few local businesses that require high capacity data services. Over the years, Holland has increased the network to about 76 miles of backbone fiber and more than 150 total miles, which includes laterals.
After engaging in a pilot project, HBPW released a study that analyzed possible business models and routes for a FTTP network designed to provide Gigabit per second (1,000 Megabits per second) capacity. Cost estimates for two separate options - one to provide service to all of HPBW’s service area and one only to premises within the city - came in at $63.2 million and $29.8 million respectively. The study assumed a “hybrid open access” model in which Holland would offer retail services but also lease excess capacity to private providers who also want to offer services to residents or businesses.
Looking At All The Options
Now that Holland has completed a study that provides one option, the community is interested in hearing what potential partners have to offer. The city seeks a partnership that: