(Chelsea Update would like to thank the Lyndon Broadband Implementation Committee for the information in this story.)
For some Lyndon Township residents, the hardships of life without broadband are coming to an end as homes are connected in the initial zones of the township fiber optic network.
For the remaining residents, the end is in sight but the wait continues, as labor shortages have caused the township’s construction contractor to push the estimated completion date for the network into the first quarter of next year.
The township estimates that based on the current pace of construction, about half of subscribers will be brought online during the fall and winter, while the remaining half will be brought online during the upcoming spring and summer.
Township officials report that the project is projected to be completed within budget.
Lyndon Township is located just north of the City of Chelsea, which has ubiquitous broadband coverage from Comcast. Despite this close proximity, until recently, the township had very little broadband access – official coverage maps estimated that at least 90 percent of households lacked coverage.
In 2016, township residents began a community conversation on how to address the issue, weighing options and gathering community input at a series of town halls and meetings.
This conversation resulted in a ballot measure in August of 2017 to build a fiber optic network reaching all households in the township, funded with a $7 million bond backed by a millage.
This ballot measure passed by a margin of two to one, with the highest voter turnout on record for an August election in the township.
Since the passage of the ballot measure, Lyndon Township elected officials and volunteers have been working together with professionals and consulting firms to design, build, and operate the network.
The township issued a competitive bid to select a construction firm and selected Henkels & McCoy, a national firm with experience building underground fiber optics. Henkels & McCoy began construction in fall of 2018, and contracted for a completion date in fall of 2019.
Recently, Henkels & McCoy notified the township that the expected completion date for their portion of the project, which is construction of the main line fiber, has been pushed back from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020.
According to representatives from Henkels & McCoy, this is largely due to a labor shortage for underground construction workers during a period with significant nationwide demand for this type of work. Since connections to individual homes cannot be constructed after the ground freezes, installations to homes that Henkels & McCoy does not reach before that time will be deferred until the ground thaws in the spring.
The township will receive penalties from Henkels & McCoy for each day the project is delayed past the contracted date.
Although the completion date for the project has been pushed back, a number of Lyndon Township households have been connected, with more added on an ongoing basis as the construction is completed.
The township structured the operation of the network as a public private partnership, and selected Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC) as the network operator. MEC is an electric cooperative that currently provides fiber to the home services to more than 10,000 households throughout Michigan and northern Indiana.
Through the partnership with MEC, Lyndon Township is providing three levels of broadband service: 25Mb for $35/month, 100Mb for $45/month, and 1Gb (1,000Mb) for $70/month. All levels of service are symmetric (upload speeds are the same as download speeds) and have no data caps.
Telephone services are also available for an additional cost. Reports from township residents who are now connected to the service have been positive, citing improvements such as enabling online activities that were not previously possible, updating computers from home rather than transporting them to a location with broadband, and enabling multiple people in a household to use the connection at once.
Township Supervisor Marc Keezer is disappointed that some residents will be getting online later than planned, but optimistic on the overall project. “It’s critical for us to deliver a high quality result that is built within the budget that we have available, and we’re on track to do that,” Keezer said in a press release. “The volunteers that make up the Implementation Committee along with myself have been working hard on this project, and we recognize our responsibility to our neighbors for the project schedule and budget. We will continue to work diligently to bring the project to successful completion.”
More information on the project can be found at www.lyndonbroadband.org.