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Manchester Township Board one step closer to bringing broadband

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Manchester Township Hall

On Tuesday, January 10th 2018, the Manchester Township Board voted unanimously to seek bids from companies who would perform a feasibility study regarding delivering broadband internet to the entire township and village. A feasibility study will establish how much it will cost to build a broadband network, how much the network will cost to run, who can do the work, the different ways it can be paid for, and other details that are essential if the township will make plans on this topic. Township Trustee Lisa Moutinho will head up the effort to seek bids. Ryan Klobucar, a township resident who has led the effort to bring broadband to the rural areas of Manchester Township, will lend his advice to Moutinho as she seeks the bids.

At the next meeting on February 14th, the board will review the bids collected, and potentially choose a company to perform the study, or choose not to pursue a study at this time.

The board noted in its decision that the Broadband survey disseminated to residents over the summer showed that there was overwhelming support for a community built and supported broadband network in the township and the village. The township hall was also full of residents seeking to speak on the topic. All residents who spoke about broadband spoke in favor. No dissenting voices were raised.

People noted that their children were required by the school to use the internet to complete their homework, and without a reliable internet connection that was sometimes impossible. Other residents spoke about how they live in housing developments that are almost completely vacant because, when new buyers learn that there is no broadband available, they choose to buy a home elsewhere.

Manchester Township, of course, has not made this decision in a vacuum but in the context of decisions being made by other nearby township governments following a path laid out by the Michigan Broadband Cooperative, an all-volunteer organization working to bring broadband to rural townships in western-Washtenaw and Jackson County. The path, which begins with the survey, then a feasibility study, culminates with a township-wide vote to make a final decision.

Sharon Township board voted on a contract for a feasibility study in December 2016, and that feasibility study was completed in February 2017. After that, they developed ballot language based on that study so that voters will be able to make the final decision by vote this coming May.

Lyndon Township, just north of Chelsea, held their vote in August 2017. Lyndon Township residents voted 622 (66%) yes and 321 (34%) no in favor of building its own fiber optic system. Lyndon Township estimates they will have cap-free, broadband high-speed internet access up and running to every home by the end of 2018.

If Manchester matched this timeline, and we voted on a contract for a feasibility study in February, we would have the study back by April or May, could have language on a ballot in 2019, and have a broadband system by mid-2020.

Inch by inch.

For more information, read our previous coverage of the rural broadband issue here and visit the Michigan Broadband Cooperative’s website.

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