Sara Swanson

What does Lyndon Township’s vote for broadband mean for the rest of us?

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Michigan Broadband Cooperative’s homepage, celebrating victory in Lyndon Township and laying out what they hope it means for the rest of the area.

Last Tuesday, voters in Lyndon Township (located just north of Chelsea) went to the ballot to decide whether or not to build a community owned fiber optic network to provide broadband access to every home in the township. The proposal passed with 622 (66%) voting yes and 321 (34%) voting no. Lyndon Township estimates they will have cap-free, broadband high-speed internet access up and running to every home by the end of 2018. Why is this of interest here in Manchester? Sharon Township will be voting on the same issue in May.

Sharon Township resident Barb Fuller is an advocate for Sharon Township building it’s own broadband network and also serves on the board of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative, an all volunteer group based in Western Washtenaw working together to bring high speed internet to their own rural communities. Fuller, who referred to Lyndon Township as “trail blazing” stated, “Because the incumbent carriers refuse to expand their coverage into rural areas like western Washtenaw County, the people of Lyndon Township were left with no other option than to build their own fiber optic network.  Sharon Township residents are in the same situation and are taking steps to ask the voters to build a high speed fiber network here too.”

Wondering how much you would pay for 25 Mbps high speed internet access running to your home, if you lived in Sharon Township? Multiply the taxable value of your home by .0003 and add $35 for your monthly cost. If you currently pay for internet, subtract that total from your current monthly internet bill to find your monthly savings. Sharon Township’s broadband feasibility study completed last February is available here.

Sharon Township is not the only Manchester-area Township following Lyndon’s lead. Manchester Township mailed out surveys to its residents with the summer tax statements. Manchester residents have until mid-September to complete the survey and weigh in on the broadband issue in Manchester Township. If you haven’t completed the paper survey already, you can take the survey online at Directly east of Manchester Township, broadband advocates in Bridgewater Township recently brought Michigan Broadband Cooperative to a board meeting to do a presentation, the first step in the potential process of bringing broadband to Bridgewater.

We reported last week that in light of disparity in broadband coverage across the county, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners created a sub-committee to to assess Washtenaw County’s disparate broadband coverage and make recommendations about how to achieve county-wide broadband equity. This week we learned that the subcommittee will have an emphasis on education, and that Manchester will be well represented with one of the three commissioners on the sub-committee Manchester’s Commissioner, Alicia Ping, and two of the eight other sub-committee members being Barb Fuller and Manchester Village resident, Theresa Herron. Of the remaining six, one is Chelsea resident, Ben Fineman, President of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative.

Fineman hopes that Lyndon Township’s “yes” vote is only the first in a series. After the vote last week he stated, “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.”

Sharon Township Supervisor, Peter Psarouthakis warned, “The vote in Lyndon Township has no impact on how things will turn out in Sharon Township. Obviously the voters there were in favor of the millage proposal.” But goes on to state, “Our township has a very good history of voter turn out and keep themselves very well informed on voter issues. This issue is now in the Sharon Township residents hands to decide if they want broadband as proposed or not.”

When asked if she viewed Lyndon’s vote as at all predictive of how Sharon’s vote would go, Fuller responded, “With respect to predicting whether Sharon Township residents will vote to build a high speed fiber network – I can tell you that I will work diligently to make the case and persuade our voters to say ‘Yes’ next May when it will appear on the ballot.”

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