What is the Broadband Bond?
Lyndon Township is proposing to build a fiber optic network that would provide broadband access to all Lyndon Township residents.
If the proposal passes, the project will be financed using a municipal bond that would cost about 2.9 mills over 20 years. Total amount borrowed by the township not to exceed a principal amount of $7,000,000.
Why is this project being proposed?
High speed internet access is not available to most Lyndon Township residents. The township board has investigated solutions with existing providers capable of providing FCC minimum broadband standards and found none willing to invest the money to build infrastructure in Lyndon Township.
In June of 2016, Lyndon Township residents received a survey with the summer tax bill aimed at gauging public interest in broadband. 83% of the registered voter respondents said that having high speed Internet was “important “or “very important”. Additionally, when asked to prioritize a list of fifteen issues respondents ranked broadband access as second in importance, behind only “protecting water quality.”
The township board funded a feasibility study in 2016 to understand how this issue might be addressed. The feasibility study recommended that the township build a fiber optic network.
What will be the cost to the taxpayer?
Based on current property valuation information available from the township, the new bond will cost the average homeowner $263/year ($21.92/month). Cost of the millage to pay the bond is calculated at $2.91 per $1000 of taxable value (taxable value is about ½ the home’s market value).
After building the fiber network the township will partner with one or more private service providers to deliver Internet access to residents.
Estimated monthly costs for basic Internet access will be about $35 for 100Mb of bandwidth. 1Gb bandwidth will be available for $60 a month.
Total costs for a resident to get broadband service: millage bond costs + monthly costs for Internet access. For the average homeowner in Lyndon Township this will be around $57 a month.
Will the fiber reach my house?
If the bond proposal passes the fiber network would connect to each house in Lyndon Township on both private and public roads.
Excellent article by Community Networks on the upcoming vote for broadband happening in Lyndon Township.
In August, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, will decide whether or not they want to approve a plan to invest in publicly owned fiber optic Internet infrastructure.
LYNDON TOWNSHIP, Michigan – June 1, 2017 – On May 9, following strong support from residents, the Lyndon Township Board unanimously approved ballot language for a bond proposal to fund construction of a fiber optic broadband network serving every home in Lyndon Township. This initiative would bring 21st century internet access to all Lyndon Township residents. The proposal will appear on the August 8, 2017 election, and the bond will be backed by a 20-year millage. If approved, the average annual millage rate to retire the bonds is estimated at 2.9102 mills ($2.9102 per thousand of taxable value).
If Lyndon voters approve the bond proposal, Lyndon Township will proceed with construction of the fiber optic network infrastructure, bringing a fiber connection to every home in the township. 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. Once completed, the township will then partner with one or more private service providers to deliver Internet access to residents. Estimated monthly costs for basic Internet access will be about $35. This internet service will provide an estimated speed of 100Mb, with no caps on data usage, and access speeds will not be throttled back for heavy users. The average combined cost of the millage for infrastructure and monthly fee for service will be about $57 per month. It is anticipated that if funded, Lyndon’s internet service will be up and running by December, 2018.
Lyndon Township, like many townships in Western Washtenaw County, is significantly underserved in regard to broadband. This is because population densities are too low to support the return on investment required by corporate providers. This can come as a surprise to residents from nearby areas that are well served by broadband, and who take their speedy, reliable internet access 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. “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 continued.
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.”
Lyndon residents who would like to know more about this project are encouraged to attend informational meetings scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 and Thursday, July 20. These meetings will be held at the Lyndon Township Hall, 17751 N. Territorial, at 7:00 p.m. both evenings. You can also find a FAQ here
I hope that everyone had a great holiday, and that you are able to stay off the roads today – I don’t know about you, but our dirt road would have been a great place to play some hockey this morning. We’re long overdue with providing an update on the Lyndon Township broadband efforts, so I wanted to take this snow day opportunity to do so.
For some of you this may be your first post from me – my name is Ben Fineman, and I live in Lyndon Township on Beeman Road. I’m volunteering as the President of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative to help build broadband in our community.
Since we saw many of you at the town hall meeting back in June, we have not been idle. We heard clearly that we needed more information on real driveway lengths throughout the township, and on whether the broadband millage was likely to be approved by Lyndon Township residents. To that end we sent out a survey with summer taxes, the results of which can be found here. In summary, driveways are significantly shorter than the estimate we were using (330’ average vs 600’), and 68% of residents support the millage at the estimated 3.7 mils over twenty years. Based on this information we had been moving forward to target a ballot initiative for the May election.
In the meantime, our neighbor Sharon Township has been working to conduct their own broadband feasibility study with a different firm, CCG Consulting, and some of us from Lyndon have been participating in that. We’ve learned a lot since we first did the Lyndon study, and that experience has been helpful toward getting a better result in Sharon Township. Similarly the Sharon Township study has been helpful for us – this new consulting firm is providing cost estimates that we believe to be more accurate based on their methodology. The good news is they’ve taken a look at the report for Lyndon Township, and suggest that the cost estimates are too high, by as much as 15%.
The Lyndon Township residents who are working on this project, including myself, are very concerned that we put forward the best possible solution for our community. While it seems that the 3.7 mil amount would likely pass, we believe it is important to have a cost estimate that is as accurate as possible before we take the project to a vote. Because of this we have made the decision to defer the ballot initiative to the August election to allow time to update the cost estimate with the refined information and methodology that we now have.
While any delay is disappointing, we believe that three months is a small price to pay to get the best possible result for our community. We’re more confident than ever that we’re moving down the right path toward achieving much needed broadband access throughout the township. Please stay tuned for upcoming volunteer opportunities (and sign up as a volunteer on the website if you’d like), and don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions.
During June of 2016, the Michigan Broadband Cooperative worked with the Lyndon Township Board to distribute a survey to all residents regarding strategies to improve broadband service in the Township. Specifically, the survey focused on 1) the perceived importance of broadband, 2) willingness to pay for broadband service, and 3) support for a millage for broadband infrastructure.
Number of Responses
294 total responses were recorded, excluding multiple responses from the same address. 240 of these responses were from registered votes, 36 were from non-registered voters, and 18 responses did not specify voter status.
How important is broadband?
When asked “How important is it to have high speed internet service at your residence?”, of registered voters, 67% said “very important”, 16% said “important”, 7% said “somewhat important”, and 10% said “not important”.
How long is your driveway?
After averaging all responses, the average driveway length in Lyndon Township is 331’. This suggests that the cost estimate can be reduced from the previous estimated average of 600’. This may reduce estimated costs by as much as $600,000 (new millage amount 3.4 mils).
How likely are you to pay $50/month for broadband service?
When asked “How likely are you to subscribe to an internet service that offers a speed of 25 Mbps or better with no data cap at $50 per month?”, of registered voters, 67% said “very likely”, 10% said “likely”, 6% said “somewhat likely”, and 17% said “not likely”.
How likely are you to support a millage for broadband?
When asked “How likely are you to vote for a 3.7 mil levy to connect every home in Lyndon Township to the internet?”, of registered voters, 52% said “very likely”, 16% said “likely”, 6% said “somewhat likely”, and 26% said “not likely”.
Thanks to all who attended our Town Hall Meeting! For those of you interested you can find the slides for the presentation here: http://tinyurl.com/townhall0616. Lyndon Twp. residents will be receiving a survey regarding some of the information discussed at the Town Hall Meeting in their tax bills. A link to that survey will also be posted to this site so stay tuned!
Following the successful completion of a feasibility study for a township-wide fiber optic network, Lyndon Township is moving forward to seek community input on the project.
What We Learned from the Feasibility Study
- The feasibility study showed the long term viability of the project, contingent upon a millage to fund startup costs
- The study also revealed a number of areas that will require additional research and key decision points that require community input before a final millage amount can be requested
Status of the Millage Proposal
Based upon the outcomes noted above, the evaluation committee has recommended that the millage issue be deferred from the original target of the August 2nd election.
The Michigan Broadband Cooperative, a grass-roots community group, will host a town hall meeting on June 13th at 7pm, at the Washington Street Education Center auditorium to seek community input.
Lyndon Township, like many townships in Western Washtenaw County, is significantly underserved in regard to broadband internet access. This can come as a surprise to residents from other areas that are well served by broadband – given how important broadband is for participation in modern society. It is hard to understand how significant parts of the region can be without it.
Yet Lyndon Township is not an outlier when it comes to broadband challenges – more than 8,500 households in Western Washtenaw County do not have access to broadband service. 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. Our out-of-town guests and our returning-home college students are amazed that they cannot complete many ordinary Internet related tasks. 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.”
Lyndon Township and the surrounding areas are lacking broadband coverage from existing cable and DSL providers, due to population densities that are too low to support the return on investment rates that these companies require. These providers have indicated that they have no plans to expand coverage into the unserved areas of Western Washtenaw County.
Michigan Broadband Co-op
In response, residents without adequate/affordable broadband service have come together and formed a non-profit organization called the Michigan Broadband Cooperative to build and operate community-controlled broadband infrastructure. This cooperative will work with municipalities to build a high-speed fiber optic to the home network that can provide next-generation broadband access to all residents. This initiative will operate as an open access network, over which private internet service providers can compete to provide service on a level playing field.
It is part of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative’s mission to demonstrate the viability of providing equal access to high speed broadband services and create equal opportunity to students, workers, and businesses irrespective of where they choose to locate. Further, the Michigan Broadband Cooperative seeks to develop a model that can be scaled for other communities and ultimately to light up all unserved areas of Michigan with high speed broadband access that will wipe out the homework gap for students of all ages and catalyze economic expansion.
The recently completed feasibility study paid for by Lyndon Township provides in-depth information regarding the estimated costs and revenues associated with building a fiber-to-the-home network in Lyndon Township, and shows the long term viability of such a project. The evaluation committee identified a number of decision points affecting the financial model that require input from the community. “We felt that we were getting into areas where we would be making sweeping decisions that would affect our neighbors – so we decided that we shouldn’t rush into things, and instead take the time to have conversations and do the research to get it right,” said Gary Munce, long time Lyndon Township resident and a Director of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative. The Cooperative is taking this next step in facilitating a community dialogue by hosting a town hall meeting on June 13th at 7pm at the Washington Education Center auditorium.
Others Have Gone Before Us
This Lyndon Township effort follows similar successful municipal and grass roots broadband efforts from around the country, including a recently completed fiber-to-the-home project in Sebewaing, Michigan – the state’s first “Gigabit Village”. Each Sebewaing household now has access to connection speeds of up to one gigabit per second, as well as standard broadband speeds that are more affordable and reliable than comparable cable broadband offerings.
While Lyndon Township is the first in Washtenaw County to take action toward improving their own broadband situation, Dexter and Webster Townships are also moving ahead with feasibility studies for fiber optic networks. Ben Fineman, President of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative, says: “Broadband has become an essential service, and it’s unacceptable for so many households in our area to lack access. Our communities are filled with people who are more than willing to step up and help to build broadband, but none of us can do it on our own. We formed this cooperative as a way for community members to work together and take action to solve the problem ourselves – no one else is going to do it for us. We’re encouraging anyone without broadband who wants to get involved to contact us and see how you can help.”
Following the unanimous approval by the Lyndon Township Board to fund a feasibility study to explore construction of a fiber optic network in Lyndon Township, a selection process was undertaken to identify a contractor to carry out the feasibility study.
The Michigan Broadband Co-op, along with Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer, conducted telephone interviews with representatives of several Michigan and midwest communities that have completed feasibility studies as part of their broadband projects. The information collected from these interviews led to the selection of Pulse Broadband to conduct the feasibility study for Lyndon Township.
A contract has been signed with Pulse Broadband and the study is underway, with an expected completion date of May 2. As soon as results of the feasibility study are in, we will provide further updates.