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).
AT&T, Comcast, and Spectrum all operate in parts of town, but only 22 percent of Holland has access to gigabit download speeds. And so, beginning in 2016 and pushed by officials and Lakeshore Advantage (the local economic development organization), the city began talking about how it could leverage its expertise, experience, and well-earned local trust to do more. Early surveys showed that as many as 70 percent of residents rated Internet access as important as electricity, water, and wastewater services, with strong majorities supporting a community-owned option as the solution to poor local service.
"It’s a community investment, just like we invest in our roads that are used by everybody. This is a community investment to build a fiber infrastructure that everybody can use." - Pete Hoffswell, Superintendent of Broadband Services...