Holland looks to offer Internet as public utility

Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 16:25:10-04

HOLLAND, Mich. — The Holland Board of Public Works is looking to expand its fiber optic internet network to every building downtown, offering some of the fastest internet West Michigan has to offer the public by September.

“Our phone rings constantly with people asking, ‘When can I get it?’ Whether it’s to their business or house,” said Becky Lehman, the Technology Director for the HBPW.

​After serving local schools and the department of public safety for nearly 15 years, the HBPW will be offering internet as a public utility on a shared network called the Gigabit Passive Optical Network, or GPON.

“The fiber itself is the best communication infrastructure you can have today,” said Lehman.

“Today any internet service could provide 1-5 megabits per second. However, one gigabit is 1000 megabits per second.”

Lehman says nearly 200 miles of fiber optic cable are currently spread throughout Holland, connecting data at the speed-of-light from traffic lights, security cameras, even sidewalk sensors used to melt the ice.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard the term ‘smart city’ but that’s something we’re engaging down on a path,” Lehman said.

The HBPW will be offering an extended pilot for more than 158 properties in the downtown area as soon as September. The city hopes to one day offer public Wi-Fi downtown at speeds nearly 20 times what other internet providers offer.

“We’re targeting about $85 a month for residential gigabit service and about $220 for a business,” said Lehman. “This really gives a cost effective solution to businesses and residents to be able to utilize fiber and not pay an outrageous price for it.”

Pricing for the service still needs to pass the board and city council. Of course this would be optional, however the city will HBPW will be installing the fiber cables to downtown businesses free of charge.

The board says installation of the fiber optic cables will begin in June, hoping it will be available through most of downtown in September.