It has been over a year since our last update here. A long year, where home broadband has been critical.
In January 2020, Holland BPW convened a Broadband Taskforce Advisory Group to bring together a good group of varied stakeholders to advise the staff-led Task Force. The Advisory Group met three times before COVID shut everything down.
While school and working from home brought the broadband need to the front of people’s minds, the Advisory Group went dormant. I was involved in a few ad-hoc discussions to try to bring broadband to more people, especially under-served communities, but there was not much anyone could do quickly. Holland opened up their public wifi at the Civic Center, and local schools did what they could to support their students.
The BPW Taskforce conducted a Listen Tour between July and October, various constituent groups in various sectors of the community. 9 sessions were held, engaging with over 30 individuals representing such sectors as small business, education, healthcare, older adults, and residents.
It wasn’t until December that the Advisory Group met again. I was pleasantly surprised at the change of tone. While pre-COVID, everyone was generally supportive of home broadband, there was fear that public support wasn’t there. By December, it was clear that this was a priority and the public was ready for new options. For years, I’ve worked to convince community leaders that home broadband isn’t “helping people get Netflix faster” but a utility. It seems today that everyone sees that home broadband is critical for work, school, and keeping connected, and will be post-pandemic too.
Tonight (March 10, 2021) is a City Council & BPW Joint Study Session and “Broadband Project Update and Discussion” is the only major agenda item. BPW staff is expected to give an update on their plans and discuss a community survey for gauging interest in community-owned broadband and ways to pay for it.
This is a long slow process, but a great indication we’re on a good path. The meeting is live streamed, so I encourage you to watch.
To get BPW fiber to homes it will still take months, but we can encourage City Council and BPW and help build grassroots support. We’re at a good spot, and looking hopeful, even if it has taken longer than we wanted.