(Chelsea Update would like to thank Gary Munce for the information in this story.)
On Aug. 8, Lyndon Township residents approved a bond proposal to fund construction of a community owned fiber optic broadband network serving every home in Lyndon Township.
The vote passed with 622 (66%) voting yes, and 321 (34%) voting no, and at a record high non-general election voter turnout of over 43%.
This initiative will bring 21st century internet access to all Lyndon Township residents.
With the approval of the proposal, Lyndon Township will proceed with activities to execute the public bids, contracts, and decisions that will go into the design, construction, and operation of the fiber optic network. Once completed, the township will then partner with one or more private service providers to deliver internet access to residents.
The feasibility study has suggested that the network should be up and running by the end of 2018. The $7 million project will be funded by a bond backed by a 20-year millage, with an average annual millage rate to retire the bonds estimated at 2.91 mills ($2.91 per thousand of taxable value). Based on currently available taxable valuation data for Lyndon Township, the average cost per property owner for this construction will be about $21.92 per month. Estimated costs for basic internet access will be between $35-45 per month. This internet service will provide a basic speed of 100Mb, with no caps on data usage, with 1Gb (gigabit) speeds available for about $60-70 per month.
The average combined cost of the millage for infrastructure and monthly fee for basic service will be between $57-67 per month.
Lyndon Township is a rural community located a few minutes north of Chelsea and about 20 minutes west of the city of Ann Arbor. Despite this proximity to the sixth largest city in Michigan, residents of Lyndon Township are almost entirely lacking in the broadband connectivity that most of the state takes for granted.
“Our friends from Ann Arbor find it unbelievable that at our house it takes many hours – overnight, actually – to simply update our Windows operating system. Sometimes, longer than that, when we lose our internet connection along the way,” said Lyndon resident Jo Ann Munce in a press release.
“People we know here in Lyndon have caps on the amount of data they’re able to use, so they’re not even able to perform a software update without paying for additional data. Then, if they want to do anything else on the internet that month, they have to buy even MORE data. It can get really expensive very quickly,” Munce said.
Broadband is increasingly important for full participation in 21st century society. Maribeth Hammer, a Lyndon Township resident, described the situation: “We live in Washtenaw County, within twenty miles of the University of Michigan, seven miles from downtown Chelsea and cannot get a high-speed internet connection. My husband has to drive to the Chelsea District Library to complete many of his work requirements, as well as my children with their college and job-hunting connection needs.”
The Michigan Broadband Cooperative is a grass roots, non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers from communities in western Washtenaw County and eastern Jackson County. The cooperative has been working with municipalities in the area, including Lyndon Township, to research and enact strategies to build broadband service where none exists.
Following the vote, Lyndon resident Ben Fineman, who also volunteers as president of the cooperative, said “This moment is bigger than Lyndon Township. Lyndon Township’s success has the potential to provide a transformative model not only to other rural townships of Washtenaw County, but also to rural communities throughout the state. I am hopeful that our success can contribute to closing the gap for the other 458,000 Michigan households who are still lacking broadband access.”