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:
- Balances financial risk
- Adopts an open access approach
- Embraces a community wide FTTP deployment
They stipulate that there is to be no “cherry picking” because community leaders see high-quality Internet access on level footing with water and electricity - a utility that should be robust and affordable. From the RFI:
Citizens in low-income areas are particularly vulnerable, and broadband is important to help level the playing field. As the world becomes increasingly connected, broadband access is key to education, job training, and even access to one’s own medical records. We expect respondents to this RFI to be sensitive to this reality, and to be willing to work with the HBPW to develop creative solutions for supporting all members of the community. For the network to have the intended economic and quality-of-life impacts, we consider both cost and availability of service to be important. We encourage responses that address both to maximize service adoption.
Unemployment is below the national average in Holland, where there is a healthy manufacturing sector. The city is trying to stay ahead of the curve, however, by taking steps now to ensure they retain the employers they have and establish and environment to attract new ones.
The HBPW has a long history of more than 130 years. The municipal utilities board provides electricity, water, and wastewater services. According to the RFI, they serve approximately 28,000 electric meters and 13,000 water meters.
- November 1, 2016 – RFI issued
- November 15, 2016 – Deadline for submitting letter of intent to respond to RFI
- November 22, 2016 – Deadline for submitting questions
- December 6, 2016 – Responses to questions due (from the HBPW)
- December 20, 2016 – RFI responses due
Read the entire RFI online at the city website.