Holland voters to decide on building fiber internet network

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Holland is working to connect more people to high-speed internet.

In a unanimous decision, the city council voted to present a millage proposal on the Aug. 2 primary ballot. Voters will decide if they want to expand broadband internet.

“We’re not a city where there necessarily aren’t options but what we have found is sometimes those options are costly and that there’s not as much competition as our residents would like to see and it’s not as fast as our residents would like to see it,” City Manager Keith Van Beek said.

The city is proposing selling up to $30 million in bonds for the Holland Board of Public Works to build a broadband fiber network that all homeowners would be able to connect to. After the network is built, residents would have the option to connect to and use the city-provided service or continue with a provider of their choice.

“This is an open network system, which means once we build that public road system, it doesn’t mean that we’re monopolizing the provisions of services. We’re actually hoping that more ISP providers would use the network that we’re building so they can provide services to the public,” Van Beek explained.

He said taxpayers would share the cost of building the system. The amount of money each homeowner pays would depend on their home’s taxable value.

People who opt to use the city broadband system will have to pay a one-time connection fee of about $800. The fee would be split into monthly $7 payments spread over the course of 10 years. They’ll also have to pay for their monthly internet subscription, which will cost about $35 per month.

The city says while some are not interested in the proposal, it learned through community forums about 60% to 70% of voters wanted to see it on the ballot.

“Holland is a place where you build things. You build furniture, batteries, all kinds of things, but I think that next step is to say what does it look like to move data around,” Ethan Morrical, who supports the proposal, said.

Morrical said he sees it as a way to attract more tech businesses to the area.

“My brother actually lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and one of the things that has helped Chattanooga become a 21st century city is they installed fiber 10 or 15 years ago and so a lot of tech companies have chosen to locate there because having access to data and having access to the world through the internet at high rate of speed is where economies are going,” Morrical said.

The city says if enough voters choose yes on their ballots and approve the millage, it would take about three years until the system is fully realized.

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