Updates

Downtown Heads for Approval

This week is the week we’ve been waiting for for Downtown progress! Don’t get too excited, though, we still have some waiting to do.

Meetings

Two important meetings are today’s BPW Special Meeting and Wednesday’s City Council/BPW Joint Study Session. Both meetings will move the Downtown project forward, but we also get lots of new, finalized information.

Service Pricing

We now know BPW’s planned rates for service for businesses and residences downtown:

$85/month for 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit)
$220/month for 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit)

The higher tier is the same speed, but has additional features:

  • Static IP Addresses
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • Enhanced reliability
  • Priority Restoration

Businesses will be able to use whichever tier is better for them.

An exciting additional rate is for Multi-Dewlling Units (MDUs). A building will be able to hook up 10 additional tenants for $10/month/tenant.

Open Access

BPW is creating an open access network. That means, while they will be an ISP, other ISPs could use this new GPON network too (just like their to today for their more expensive Active Ethernet services).

Wholesale rates (transit only) come in two speed tiers: 100 Mbps and 1,000 Mpbs (1 Gigabit):

$40/month for 100 Mpbs
$60/month for 1,000 Mpbs (1 Gigabit)
$140/month for 1,000 Mpbs (1 Gigabit) plus the enhanced features above

So any ISP can offer internet service, TV, phone, etc. over that same connection and they pay a lower wholesale rate. As a customer, you’d only deal with your ISP, not BPW.

What happens next?

This week’s meetings sets wheels in motion for hooking up all of Downtown. By setting rates for this new ISP service, there’s pontential for going wider. However, we still have to get Downtown complete.

The City needs to pass a new ordinance to allow BPW to become an ISP. This process requires a public hearing which (to give time for proper notice) will be July 9. Downtown will happen, but to get through the municiple hurdles takes time. I expect new downtown installations to begin in Sepetember.

The board packet for tonight’s BPW meeting has all the info including the proposed ordinance.

Even though the process takes time, this is an exciting time, and it seems like things are finally moving. When can you have BPW fiber at your house? We still don’t know that, but keep telling them and City leaders you want it!

Downtown Happenings

Fiber in downtown Holland keeps getting closer. Holland BPW is in the final days of the engineering phase and should initial schematics this week. The next step is to put out a bid packet to actually run fiber to each downtown building. We expect to see that released at the end of March and be open for around 4 weeks.

After the bids come back, there are additional steps such as BPW Board and City Council approval. BPW is targeting a summer install and having an operational network in the fall.

Our team continues to talk with BPW, the City, and stakeholders to help make this a reality. We don’t want to stop with downtown; we want this to be the start of a much larger project.

Learning Events

If you’d like to hear more about the downtown project, BPW is hosting a public meeting Monday, March 13, from 7:00-8:30 PM at the Herrick District Library on River Ave. Come talk to BPW, hear what’s happening, and get your questions answered.

Holland Young Professionals will be talking fiber at their Breakfast of Champions event Thursday, March 16th. Free registration is required.

Technical Progress

For the technical geeks out there, there are a couple things BPW has been doing recently that hint at things to come.

ARIN Registration

ARIN, or the American Registry for Internet Numbers is the regional body that manages IP addresses. For example, hollandbpw.com currently lives at the IP address 67.225.219.197.

Holland BPW is now registered with ARIN which is a step needed to become an ISP and sell internet service. Each internet customer needs and IP address to connect to the internet, assigned by their ISP (ok, I’m simplifying this a bit, but if you knew that much you probalby stopped reading a while ago). BPW needs to be registered in order to get a block of IP addresses to assign to customers.

Merit Membership

On Monday (March 6) the BPW Board approved membership in Merit Network. Merit is a membership organization made up of Michigan’s state universities, education, healthcare, and government entities and they run an extensive fiber network across the state.

Merit membership has a lot of benefits from training to services, but to quote BPW, “of specific interested to HBPW is Merit’s IPv4 address space. By becoming a Merit member, HBPW will gain access to this space, allowing for enhanced internet connectivity…”. IPv4 addresses are a scarce resource, but still needed for an ISP. It is good to see BPW making plans to gain access to that address space.

New City Master Plan Promotes Broadband

Last week, City staff presented City Council with a draft of a new Master Plan. There’s a lot in it, but page 70 talks about broadband. Specifically, it lists two relevant Action Steps:

  • Ensure that all residents and businesses have fiber optic broadband access.
  • Work with the Holland Board of Public Works to create Wi-Fi zones in certain areas of the City.

Sounds good to me! Broadband continues to be City Council’s #1 priority, yet progress happens slower than many of us would hope.

Holland BPW continues to work towards wiring downtown, however summer 2017 is probably the earliest we could see that completed. The good news is that the work is continuing and soon we’ll know exactly what is needed to finish downtown.

Where is BPW's Fiber?

Holland BPW has a new map that shows where all of their fiber is today.

This existing infrastructure is one of the big reasons why Holland is a great place for fiber broadband. Let’s leverage what we already have!

Fiber Downtown Moves Forward

We’re making progress toward lighting up fiber in Downtown Holland. Last night, the Holland BPW Board of Directors voted to approve a contract with Vantage Point for engineering and construction management to bring fiber to all of downtown.

What We Know

Vantage Point will do all the work to figure out exactly where fiber should go to each building, use those detailed plans to solicit bids for doing the actual construction, and manage the construction.

This is a great step forward in getting great fiber internet service in Holland.

Vantage Point provided an example schedule. We’re already behind their starting point, but ideally we could be getting construction bids in early 2017 and building in late winter or early spring.

Schedule

What We Don’t Know

The biggest unanswered question is: “What will internet service cost?” BPW is actively working on a business plan for this purpose.

We also don’t know how much construction will cost. This contract involves getting bids based on detailed engineering work, so those bids will have the total cost. At that point, BPW and the City will have to decide how to pay for construction. Ideally, they can amortize the construction cost through service bills, but we don’t know for sure yet.

A Great Step Forward

This is a great step forward toward getting broadband in Holland. We’re farther away from fiber to the home than I’d like, but we’re getting closer all the time.

Intern with Holland BPW's Broadband

Looking for an internship working with fiber broadband? Holland BPW> has an opening for a Network Intern/co-op.

Responsibilities: Assists the Broadband Services team with the implementation, installation, configuration and technical support of network systems that use Ethernet and other technologies. This is an excellent internship opportunity to learn and gain real world experience in network documentation using GIS software, spreadsheets and drawings along with quoting customer costs and VOIP phone systems, WAN, LAN and WLAN networks; including routing and switching.

Sounds like a great opportunity to work on the ground floor of a municipal fiber deployment!

A New Hire & Some Downtown Progress

It has been months since we’ve had much to report. Good things are happening, but they take time. September is here and I have a little bit to share.

Pete HoffswellFirst, Holland BPW created a position for Manager of Broadband Services and hired local resident Pete Hoffswell. If Pete sounds familiar, it might be because he’s on our homepage as a long-time advocate of broadband. He’s been working to connect Holland people since the days of modems and ISDN. Needless to say, we’re excited both for this new position and that Pete took the job.

Next, the BPW is reviewing engineering proposals to bring internet to all of Downtown Holland. This involves getting detailed schematics and construction bids to hook everyone up. Nothing is certain yet, but BPW could be hooking up people early in 2017 if everything goes well.

This means we still don’t have a definitive plan for city-wide rollout (or wider). We’ll continue pushing for that. We hope a successful Downtown project will help spur action.

Finally, BPW shared with us that their fiber network continues to grow:

Right now, we are averaging about 6 new connections to the HBPW fiber network monthly. These connections are to various buildings throughout the service area, and built to support our current connectivity options - Dark Fiber lease (Point to Point) and Active Ethernet (IP Transport) offerings. As we build these new fiber paths, we also consider future use for them. We consider neighboring premises connectivity opportunities as well as possible future GPON (Internet) service.

These connections represent larger businesses that can afford expensive connections. We still want to provide high-speed bandwidth to every home and business. BPW’s network is a great investment, and we want to see it used to benefit the entire community.

Laketown Township Votes Today

Laketown Township votes today to build a fiber optic network to every house in the township. This is an amazing project, and promises to bring great internet service to everyone.

If you haven’t been following along, here are some recent news stories:

Wood TV: Lakeshore taxpayers to vote on $8.7M high-speed Internet

MLive: Is broadband Internet a ‘basic utility?’ Voters consider high-speed tax

Holland Sentinel: Supporters tout Laketown Township fiber network project’s savings; detractors question risk

The Sentinel also published a handful of letters for and against.

Early reports indicate high voter turnout. I’ve talked a lot with the Yes! campaign and they’ve done a lot of great work going door-to-door and educating residents about the plan. We’ll wait and see!

City Council Looks to Wire 8th Street

Tonight, as part of their annual budget planning, City Council discussed allocating $25,000 to put together an engineering study and comprehensive budget to bring fiber broadband to all of 8th Street.

The final budget will be presented at the regular City Council meeting on May 4th.

The money will be used for detailed planning, and actual rollout would happen later (probably summer at the earliest).

While this is not the fast, bold action we were hoping for, it is progress. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Video: Today's Fiber Panel

Watch a video of today’s Early Bird Breakfast panel on broadband at the West Coast Chamber of Commerce.

4-12-16 Early Bird Breakfast from City of Holland on Vimeo.

We had good discussion about Holland BPW’s business plan, why people want gigabit broadband, and what it would take to roll it out.

Holland Updates

It was over a week since the BPW & City Council Study Session where we heard about the new fiber study. The Holland Sentinel had a great write-up and we want to touch on some key data points here.

Among the possible scenarios were two main ones to bring fiber to the full BPW service area, or just to the City of Holland. The BPW would become an ISP to sell retail internet service.

To bring it to the full BPW service area requires a build out cost of $63,239,000. Limiting to just the City is $29,756,000.

The study suggested financing with a combination of bonds and loans, though other options are possible. The utility would be net income positive in year 7.

For 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) service, the cost to consumers would be:

  • $80 residential
  • $85 small commercial
  • $220 medium commercial (with an SLA, or Service-Level Agreement)

The biggest assumption in the plan is the “take rate”. This simply means the number of subscribers. To make these numbers work, they need 39.6% take rate, meaning 39.6% of the possible homes need to sign up for service.

Since no immediate action was taken at the meeting, we will be discussing with the City and BPW to move this forward. Look for many more updates in the coming weeks. We need to keep up the momentum, and will need your help.

Finally, join us Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 12) at the Early Bird Breakfast where we’ll be discussing broadband with BPW.

Laketown YES Campaign Updates: Calculate Your Savings

Yard sign in Laketown Township

Laketown Township’s Fiber Optic YES! campaign is kicking into high gear. Yard signs are popping up all over the township, and informational flyers are going out to residents. They’re also collecting a lot of great stories from residents on their Facebook page.

We helped out by building a calculator for residents to calculate their savings with fiber. Because their plan involves a millage plus a monthly fee for service, it may sound expensive but most residents will end up saving significant money for much better service.

Here’s an animation of it in action. Click to try it for yourself!

Animation of Laketown Calculator

Media Coverage

We’ve received some great media coverage lately. Here are some of the articles we’ve collected:

Fiber optic internet service provides new opportunities to lakeshore communities

MiBiz - April 10, 2016

My Take: Fiber optic Internet will transform Holland

Holland Sentinel - April 10, 2016

Study: Holland BPW’s fiber Internet utility would cost $63.2M

Holland Sentinel - April 2, 2016

Michigan city looking at $47M fiber optics network

MLive - April 2, 2016

Fastest Internet in Michigan? Holland Fiber one step closer thanks to new report

Jeremy Gonsior - March 29, 2016

Holland BPW considers starting fiber optic Internet utility

Holland Sentinel - March 28, 2016

Study Session Update

Tonight City Council and Holland BPW met and had a presentation from CTC Technology and Energy about a possible business plan to run fiber to the entire BPW service area.

The consultants talked through a presentation based on the study that we’ve been reading over since it became public Friday.

Nothing specific was voted on tonight, but this sets the groundwork for real progress. We will have much more to say in the coming days as our group determines how to best move forward.

In the meantime, some quick facts from the presentation:

Building out fiber to everyone in the current BPW service area would cost $63 million. If that was only the City, it shrinks to just under $30 million. Assuming a 39.6% “take rate” (percentage of homes connected), service could cost $80/month for 1 Gbps. No setup costs or equipment rental.

It would most likely be paid for with bonds, but there are multiple options on the table.

These are conservative estimates, and we hope they could get that monthly price down. The more people sign up, the easier that is.

Again, this is all preliminary. We’ll have much more, and ways for you to get involved, coming soon.

Thursday: Look for the Press Release from BPW and hopefully some more press coverage.

BPW Plan to Go Before City Council

On Friday, we got our first peek at Holland BPW’s newest study of Fiber to the Home. The 118-page document will be officially presented to the BPW Board and Holland City Council this Wednesday (March 30th) during a joint Study Session.

The document has a lot of information (especially on the engineering side) but doesn’t make clear exactly what path forward the Holland BPW is proposing. We hope to get clarification in the days ahead.

If you’d like to attend the Study Session, it is Wednesday 5:30 PM and the report is scheduled to be presented at 6:05 PM. This is a study session for the BPW Board and City Council, so there won’t be time for public comment (that would happen at a later meeting).

Laketown Fiber Optic YES!

I had the pleasure tonight of meeting with Laketown Township residents who are supporting the May 3 millage to build a fiber optic network.

This millage will cover running a great fiber network to each and every home in the township. They’ll then contract with an ISP to provide high-speed service at low prices.

Many Laketown residents don’t have any access to high-speed internet. Some use slow satellite connections, and others try cellular cards (with terrible data caps), while others aren’t reached by cell service either. This is a great opportunity for Laketown to leapfrog most of the nation in speed and reliability.

Follow their progress on their Facebook page and website.

Laketown Township to Vote on Broadband

Catching me by surprise this morning was front-page news that Laketown Township will vote on a fiber broadband project in May. Laketown Township is just southwest of Holland.

The meeting minutes (see Article IX on Page 2) has the details. The township will raise a millage of 1.6572 mills ($1.6572 per $1,000 of taxable value) to pay for the project’s estimated $8.6 million cost. The network will be available to all township residents, but prioritize those without access to broadband today.

The proposal will be on the May 3rd ballot for residents to vote on. Pending approval, it could take 8 months for availability. They’re targeting a price of $50-60/month.

While this is unrelated to our discussion with Holland BPW, it sounds good and complimentary. We support Laketown Township’s effort to bring better broadband to their citizens! Hopefully as more fiber is built, the governments involved can work together to make access better and even more affordable.

Where is BPW Fiber today?

Holland BPW has spent tens of millions of dollars into their fiber network in the last couple decades. It goes well beyond the city limit into the surrounding townshps.

This is a key reason we want the Holland BPW to become a broadband utility.

In their 2015 Annual Report they have a great graphic showing how much fiber is already in place.

Holland BPW fiber network map

This is great public infrastructure, and will make rolling fiber out to everyone much easier than in other cities.

BPW Residential Customer Survey (Updated with Link)

Update: The survey is available here until February 26.

Example survey questionsExample survey questions

Holland BPW is emailing residential customers a link to a survey.

For a subset of respondents, they ask questions at the very end (if you opt-in) about broadband.

Please fill it out and make your voice heard!


City Council Makes Broadband Top Priority

City Council had their annual retreat this weekend and made broadband a top priority.

Top among the elected leaders was bringing fiber optic Internet to Holland’s neighborhoods.
“I wasn’t surprised that fiber was No. 1,” Mayor Nancy DeBoer said. “Everyone feels strongly about trying to make that happen.”

This is great news, but we still have work to do. Tell your council members that we want this today!

The Pilot is Live!

This week Holland BPW connected Gigabit fiber broadband to three pilot sites. This is a big milestone toward getting broadband for everyone.

Initial speed tests are looking good; we’re getting 800 Mbps speeds down and 600-700 Mbps up!

Speed test showing 833.59 Mbps down, 523.31 Mbps up, 11 ms ping

Speed test showing 816.13 Mbps down, 771.15 Mbps up, 30 ms ping

Speed test showing 787.54 Mbps down, 665.02 Mbps up, 8 ms ping

As the final few pilot sites come online, speed tests might go down a bit (we’re all sharing 1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps). But this is 10-100 times faster than what we had before, so it feels extremely fast.

Photo of fiber gateway at Lemonjello's
Fiber gateway at Lemonjello's

Try it out

How do you try it for yourself? Two of the sites are public: Lemonjello’s and Butch’s.

Both have public Wi-Fi into BPW’s fiber broadband. I recommend starting your day at Lemonjello’s with coffee and a muffin straight from the oven. Then move to Butch’s for soup and sandwich lunch and a microbrew in the pub.

The Wi-FI network names are HBPWHighSpeed5G (best) and HBPWHighSpeed24.

These are 5 GHz & 2.4 GHz networks respectively.

Read our What to Expect tips to get the best speeds from these Wi-Fi network. Per-user speeds may be limited from time to time.

Photo of fiber gateway at Collective Idea
Fiber gateway at Collective Idea

What’s next?

The pilot runs for three months. During that time, we hope to hear about pricing and wider rollout plans from BPW.

How can you help? Tell BPW and City Council you want this soon! Spread the word, and have your friends sign up to show their support.


What to expect from a fiber connection

Gigabit fiber broadband is impressive, but when you go to a pilot site and run a speed test, you might be surprised to see lower (yet still impressive) speeds.

Initial Wi-FI test at Lemonjello's
Test at Collective Idea after Wi-Fi tweaks


Wi-Fi is capable of gigabit speeds, but there are many factors that will determine your actual speed, including:

  • Distance from the access point

  • Equipment capabilities

  • Noise (other networks)
  • Number of people on the network

Here’s what you can do to improve your speed.

Distance from the access point

This one is easy. Move closer. In the Collective Idea office we initially saw a 100-300 Mbps drop when moving 20 feet from our Wi-Fi access point.

Equipment capabilities

Screen shot of Wi-FI menu

Not all devices can handle gigabit speed. Your Wi-Fi must be 802.11ac to get full speeds. Computers and phones also have different antenna configurations, which can limit your speed. 802.11ac came out in late 2011. The Wikipedia page has a list of capable devices.

Your device negotiates a speed with the access point. On a Mac, you can see your current negotiated speed by Option-clicking the Wi-Fi menu in the menu bar.

Finally, Wi-Fi networks broadcast at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. You’ll get the highest speeds from the 5 GHz networks.

Noise (other networks)

We have many many Wi-Fi networks downtown and there’s only so many channels for Wi-Fi to use. It is best to keep nearby networks off the same channels, but as new networks come and go, this is a constant challenge.

This is another reason to pick a 5 GHz network: they’re less crowded.

Number of people on the network

As more people try to use the network, the speed allocated to each individual is less. This is easy to see with a speed test. Run one on your own, then run one the same time a friend does.

All the pilot sites are sharing a single gigabit connection (1,000 Mbps). A benefit of fiber, however, is that since downloads are quicker, you get out of the way of the next person quicker. So your speed test might not be the best, but you’ll be loading YouTube videos faster than you ever have.

Will I notice a speed difference?

I’m confident you will. Load YouTube and play a video, download a Software Update, host a video chat, or something equally bandwidth intensive. You’ll feel the difference immediately. If you’re a gamer, you’ll notice fiber provides the lowest latency possible. If you have anything to upload you’ll notice a huge difference.

Either way, let us know what you think! Drop us a note in the comments, email info@hollandfiber.org or discuss on social media with #HollandFiber.

Pilot Project Update

Holland BPW is almost ready to kick of a 3-month pilot program in Downtown Holland.

Fiber installation happened a couple weeks ago, and BPW is waiting on trial equipment to hook it up. We hope to have everything up and running in early January.

The three buildings are:

  • 44 E 8th Street (Riverview Building)
  • 31 E 8th Street (Lokers)
  • 61 E 9th Street (Lemonjello’s Coffee)

Google Map Downtown Holland, MI

The first two are multi-tenant buildings, so the pilot will simulate a neighborhood. BPW will lease a 1 Gigabit line to the Internet, and all pilot participants will share.

So what are the goals of a trial? For BPW, they get to test equipment from 2 different vendors in real-world situations. It also gives time while BPW finalizes their business plan and pricing.

The public will have opportunities to test the system too. We’ll keep you posted!

Sentinel Covers BPW's Fiber Progress

The Holland Sentinel reported Sunday about BPW’s progress to roll out fiber.

City Council Poised to Take Action

This Wednesday (October 21st), Holland City Council will take action to make fiber to the home a reality!

They’ll vote to authorize a contractor to conduct an engineering survey and formalize a business plan. This is a big next step into Holland BPW becoming an ISP. By January, we should have the results which will allow for community rollout to be planned during the Spring.

This is just one step in a long process, but BPW and City Council are making great progress. Read the BPW Recommendation and view the City Council Agenda for more info.

Pilot Project

BPW met yesterday with three downtown Holland buildings about running a fiber pilot project. The goal is to test equipment that could be use in homes or small businesses, and get some real-world usage.

Each multi-tenant building will be set up like a small neighborhood, with the same equipment that you’d get in your home. That way, BPW doesn’t merely test that they can do fiber to the building, but tests the real equipment in a contained area (easier to tweak inside a building than atop a pole).

All three sites will share a 1 Gbps connection to the internet, similar to how a residential block might be set up.

The project will kick off around late November and run for 90 days. We’ll be sure to have public events when it is up and running, and have spaces where you can try BPW Fiber on your own time.

Wheels are in Motion!

Hello Holland Fiber supporters. We have some great news to share.

BPW working to bring fiber to the home

In meetings with Holland BPW this week, we learned that they are working on a business plan to bring fiber to the home! This is a huge first step in the process of providing affordable high speed internet.

This means in the future, we could call the BPW to get a high-speed fiber optic internet connection instead of Comcast, Charter, or AT&T! The goal is much faster speeds at competitive prices with great customer service.

There are a handful of steps that have to happen, and the BPW Board still has to approve the plan, but we have confirmation from BPW General Manager Dave Koster that his staff is actively working on this.

Pilot Project

The BPW is also working on a pilot project to test equipment and usage in a few downtown buildings (and hopefully a few neighborhoods). We’ll definitely post more information as this gets closer. We hope to have access in public places so you can experience what Holland Fiber could be.

Timing

The business plan will take at least a couple months. Concurrently, planning for the pilot project can happen with implementation in early 2016. If everything goes well, by spring they could be planning wider rollouts for implementation later in 2016.

How do I help?

  1. Encourage your friends and neighbors to sign our support form.
  2. Educate yourself on fiber and its benefits by reading our FAQ.
  3. Talk with your elected officials to let them know you feel this is important.
  4. Let us know how we can help you spread the message and what information you’d like to hear.
  5. Get excited! The wheels are in motion to bring high-speed home broadband to the Holland area!

Have questions? Want to help? Email us: info@hollandfiber.org and talk about #HollandFiber.

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