In 1992, Holland BPW installed an extensive fiber-optic network in and around the City of Holland. It was designed to support many more applications and users, but its primary goal was to make the electric service grid “smarter” and prevent outages.
The fiber network helped the electric utility become more reliable, and the fiber network has proven itself very reliable as well. During the storms two years ago, when the six utility poles in front of the DeYoung Power plant snapped, T² Communications reported that not a single fiber customer lost internet service.
Since then, a number of businesses (and even a few homes) were connected, but they still needed a third-party ISP and it was expensive. While Gigabit speeds are possible in theory, even getting a 10 Mbps connection (1/100 of a Gigabit) is over $600/month. Some businesses that have been on the BPW fiber have started moving to Comcast and AT&T as they can offer lower prices for the same or faster internet speeds.
In 2011, a study was commissioned by BPW to determine how to best utilize their fiber investment. The customer count and revenues had stalled and the study addressed why:
Average node speeds being sold by channel partners using HBPW are comparable to ADSL with “high end circuits” in the 5 MB – 10 MB range, significantly slower than cable modems and the equivalent of buying a Ferrari to sit idling in Tulip Festival traffic. Circuits sold should be in the 25 MB, 50 MB, 100 MB, 250 MB, 1 GB range.
The plan recommended fiber to the home (with “triple play”: internet, TV and phone service) with an expected initial cost to be $58 million, but a net income of $10 million/year by year 5. It was presented at a City Council Working Session but never voted on.
In 2010–2011, Holland also made a bid to become a Google Fiber city. We didn’t win and fiber to the home was left undone.
Our informal group has been discussing potential for bringing fiber to homes and businesses at low prices. Holland City Council is expressing interest and Holland BPW has too, but we need to spur them into action.
Other cities are leapfrogging us, though many are sharing their best-practices through Next Century Cities. We want Holland to join this conversation and move quickly.
Community broadband is infrastructure for the common good. It connects us to the world, thereby promoting economic development and public safety by meeting the communication needs of education, healthcare, business, and government.
Fiber to the home can increase home values by over 3%. It helps attract and retain talent, which is a major need in the area (Lakeshore Advantage reports that 76 of area companies are experiencing challenges with this).
We believe high-speed broadband improves quality of life for residents, increases competitiveness for businesses, and will help attract both to the area.
Holland BPW’s fiber network is already spread through our community. They have the experience as a utility to run connections to homes and business.
What we need is for BPW to become the ISP, so you sign up for “BPW Broadband” and have one point of contact. BPW would install the fiber lines to your home or business and provide service.
We want to hit a price point at or better than similar services in Chattanooga, Kansas City, and Sandy, OR, which are $60–70/month for 1 Gbps for home users and slightly more for businesses.
Whittaker Associates recorded a webinar (free registration required) with Chattanooga, Tennessee and Lafayette, Louisiana panelists telling their story regarding broadband services with an emphasis on the economic impact.
Next Century Cities has tons of facts and data about how to create municipal broadband and they have over 100 cities who are committed to adding broadband.
Read the 2011 Holland BPW Strategic Plan (26 MB PDF) which recommended becoming an ISP as the best way to utilize the BPW’s fiber investment.
Read the 2016 FTTP Deployment Cost & Financial Projections (3 MB PDF).