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Holland City looks to make internet another utility for customers

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Posted at 8:02 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 20:02:24-04

A new utility could be coming online in Holland. The city is asking voters to approve a tax increase for new high-speed internet.

The city says this new fiber optic can offer 1-10 gigabytes of speeds.

Holland officials say the pandemic highlighted the need for this service as more people were working from home.

Opponents of the measure say this proposal is good in theory, but is going to cause problems down the road.

"This is one gig of service up and down right now. Which is faster than the vast majority of people can secure," Holland City Manager Keith Van Beek told FOX 17.

On August 2nd, Holland voters are going to have a choice. They can choose whether or not they want the city to build a new fiber optic cable.

"People would have choice and competition where they could choose from the Holland Board of Public Works to be their ISP provider. But they also could choose from current providers or new providers that aren't even in the market that would say 'we want to enter into that market' and provide services using a common infrastructure," Beek added.

The cost of making this project a reality is in the tens of millions.

If approved, people in Holland are going to see an additional 1.5 mills on their taxes the first year, then drop to 1.12 mills the next 24 years. The new tax is going to generate $30 million.

"The average homeowner will pay $13 a month, whether they take the service or not. So what is that about $160 a year, if you don't even sign up for the service," Witcha State University Institute for Study of Economic Growth Executive Director Ted Bolema said.

Bolema has a home in Holland. He says he has financial concerns for this project if it moves forward as the city looks to sign on about half of the city's residents.

"I think that's very unrealistic based on what we see in almost any other market where there's already established service, and then a government-run service comes in. And when they don't do well, when they don't meet their projections, that becomes a burden on the city," Bolema said.

The cost to sign up to use the fiber connection is estimated at $800 but can spread over a ten year period.

Then all that's left is to pay for the actual service, which would be $35 a month.

"That's where competition comes in, where people can either purchase that from providers that would use the infrastructure that we build, but we or they could purchase it from the Holland Board of Public Works," Beek said.

Holland Board of Public Works already has a fiber connection downtown.

In 2017, the city launched its pilot service for businesses and people in the area.

The city says six other companies are using the current infrastructure to reach customers along with its service.

The new optic cable would be similar to that one that went online five years ago.

"That's what our proposal is that we would build that public road, if you would, in front of every resident. And then end users, our citizens, could choose from a collection of ISP providers that would then provide that internet service, but possibly bundle that with other options of cable and phone.

If approved, the city wants to break ground in 2023. Service would be turned on in sections as the system is built. They hope to have it done in two years.

Polls will be open for voters to decide on this and other issues throughout Michigan next Tuesday from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

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