HOLLAND — With the Broadband Bond proposal passing on Tuesday, the Holland Board of Public Works was given the green light to get to work on a citywide fiber optic internet network.
“This is a very exciting project for the city, and I’m very happy that the voters of the city of Holland have chosen to allow us to move forward,” said Holland Mayor Nathan Bocks during from a recent town council meeting. “I’m sure the Holland Board of Public Works will live up to its motto ‘Local.’ Reliable. all the city.
“Congratulations to the people of the city of Holland.”
The bond proposal approved by 213 votes, 3,948 to 3,735, authorized HBPW to issue up to $30 million in bonds — a figure the city called “conservative,” meaning the actual obligation could be several million dollars lower – to fund the public network which will go through all addresses in Holland.
The deposit and mileage will not pay the cost for individual households to connect to the network. If they want to access the 10 gigabit speeds of Holland City Fiber, as the project has been dubbed, the connection fee will be around $820. HBPW expects to be able to offer an installment plan to spread this cost over several years.
The network will be open access, meaning the City of Holland will own the ground and overhead cables, while private internet service providers will be able to use the fiber optic network to deliver services to homes and businesses that choose to log in. The pitch to residents was that the open-access model would reduce prices by creating competition and making it easier for new nimble companies to enter the Dutch market.
Taxpayers will repay the debt created by the bond with one property tax mile. The actual amount of mileage will depend on the specifications of the bond financing, which the city has yet to determine. The estimate provided to voters was 1.5 mills in the first year of the tax, with reductions as the debt is reduced over the years, for an average of 1.12 mills. If the total bond dollar figure is lower, the mileage rate will also be lower.
Outside the Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church polling station on Election Day, just over half of voters The Sentinel spoke to said they voted for the fiber proposal.
Voters who supported him said the network would be a benefit to the entire community. Others said they voted yes because it looked like it would be a better service than what they have today or because they liked the idea of a locally run broadband network.
“I think it’s a good investment in the city as a whole,” Allison Deters said.
People who voted no were largely opposed to another tax on their homes. Many said Comcast had a monopoly on service in their area and expressed disappointment with their internet service options, but said they didn’t want the government to intervene to try to fix the problem.
“I don’t want a tax increase,” declared a “no” voter, Nolan Philo. “We don’t need another utility.”
At the same time, Philo said he was ready to reserve judgment on the fiber project: “If it works, great. I don’t know if I’m going to use it or not. I’m not a early adopter.”
The approval of the broadband project was applauded by Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, who said in a statement to The Sentinel that the project would increase Holland’s attractiveness as a place to live and work.
“The reality is that talented people can now work anywhere,” Owens said. “Investment in broadband increases our ability to compete and retain top talent.
“The City of Holland has worked hard to create broadband access to keep its residents competitive and strong. Congratulations to the City of Holland on its broadband mileage success. This critical investment will improve capacity of our region to compete for business and talent, continuing to ensure that current and future generations want to live and work in our dynamic economy.
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Utilities Manager Ted Siler said the first step for HBPW was to issue a request for proposals as soon as possible to select an engineer from the owner to oversee the entire project. This individual or company will assist HBPW in soliciting bids for the engineering, design and construction of the fiber network, with the goal of selecting these contractors by Spring 2023 and groundbreaking by fall 2023.
With major state and federal programs offering grants for the expansion of high-speed internet in the United States and many other communities interested in similar projects, Bocks said he thinks Holland is “in ahead of the curve” by launching a fiber project now.
However, the projected increase in demand for fiber optic materials and electronics is a concern of HBPW officials, and Siler said they would consider purchasing some of the materials as soon as possible to ensure that they are on hand when construction begins.
Construction of the fiber network will involve both aerial and underground installation of cables and network electronics. The design phase will help determine which areas will have aerial or underground installation, but even underground fiber installation, which occurs in the right-of-way between the street and the sidewalk, is “much less intrusive” than roadwork, Siler said.
“You can expect us to spend maybe a day or two outside your house,” Siler said.
The utility hasn’t determined precisely how the project will be divided into phases, but the first areas where the network could be “live” with fiber optic internet service in the summer of 2024, even if construction continues for two to three years to completion.
A contractor under the direction of the owner’s engineer may first manage and operate the internet network before handing over the reins to HBPW, Siler said, noting that no decision at that level of detail had yet been made. socket. HBPW already offers its shared Internet service in downtown Holland, but its broadband department is very small.
“If we bring in thousands more broadband customers, that’s a big step forward from a customer service and technical perspective. That being said, we already have some expertise in this area.”
HBPW intends to update the project website, hollandcityfiber.com, with information on project progress and next steps.