In a record high turnout for a non-general election, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, decided to approve a bond proposal to fund a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The measure passed with 66 percent of voters (622 votes) choosing yes and 34 percent (321 votes) voting no.
Geographically Close, Technologically Distant
The community is located only 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and the sixth largest city in the state, but many of the Township’s residents must rely on satellite for Internet access. Residents and business owners complain about slow service, data caps, and the fact that they must pay high rates for inadequate Internet service. Residents avoid software updates from home and typically travel to the library in nearby Chelsea to work in the evening or to complete school homework assignments.
Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer has reached out to ISPs and asked them to invest in the community, but none consider it a worthwhile investment. Approximately 80 percent of the community has no access to FCC-defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
“We don’t particularly want to build a network in our township. We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else,” Keezer said. “But that’s not a reality for us here.”
When local officials unanimously approved feasibility study funding about a year ago, citizens attending the meeting responded to their vote with applause.
A Little From Locals Goes A Long Way
The community will finance their $7 million project with a 2.9 millage over the next 20-years, which amounts to a $2.91 property tax increase per $1,000 of taxable value of real property. Average cost per property owner will come to $21.92 per month for the infrastructure. Basic Internet access will cost $35 - 45 per month for 100 Mbps; speeds will likely be symmetrical. They estimate the combined cost of infrastructure millage and monthly fee for basic service will be $57 - 67 per month. Lyndon Township wants the network to also offer gigabit speeds for a slightly higher rate and will search for a private sector ISP willing to provide services within their chosen parameters.
The Michigan Broadband Cooperative, a grassroots volunteer driven non-profit organization focusing on improving connectivity in western Washtenaw and eastern Jackson Counties spearheaded the initiative in Lyndon Township. Now that the community is ready to move to the next phase, the cooperative hopes other communities in the state will follow their lead:
Following the vote, Lyndon resident Ben Fineman, who also volunteers as president of the Cooperative, said “This moment is bigger than Lyndon Township. Lyndon Township’s success has the potential to provide a transformative model not only to other rural townships of Washtenaw County, but also to rural communities throughout the state. I am hopeful that our success can contribute to closing the gap for the other 458,000 Michigan households who are still lacking broadband access.”