Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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COMMUNITY BROADBAND 4 4 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8 "We started out using the words 'underserved population,' but really, 'underprivileged' is the right word." Lyndon Township Puts Skin in the Game Community leaders often assume broadband projects that require local tax increases will never fly. The case of Lyndon Township, Michigan, shows that's not always true. By Katie Kienbaum / Institute for Local Self-Reliance L yndon Township, Michigan, is like many other small towns trying to improve connectivity – it doesn't have stockpiles of cash available to fund new infrastructure. However, unlike other communities, Lyndon decided to increase property taxes to finance a publicly owned fiber network and bring high- quality internet access to every household. Local governments rarely use any form of property or other tax financing for broadband networks, but a successful ballot initiative proved that the residents of Lyndon considered an investment in modern infrastructure worthwhile. Lyndon Township, with a population of 2,800, is tucked into the rolling hills and glacial lakes of Washtenaw County in southeastern Michigan. e state owns just over half of Lyndon's 36-square-mile territory, and the rural area offers many opportunities for recreational activities. A half-hour drive from Lyndon Township lies Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan. Despite the town's being within commuting distance of a world-renowned research institution, approximately 80 percent of Lyndon residents don't have access to broadband. "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," explained one township resident. For many households, satellite providers are the only options, and family members must travel to the public library in a nearby town to get online for work or school. "We started out using the words 'underserved population,'" said Gary Munce, a community member active in the broadband effort, "but really . . . 'underprivileged' is the right word." Lyndon Township wasn't set on providing its own connectivity from the start. "We don't particularly want to build a network in our township," township supervisor Marc Keezer told Michigan Radio. "We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else. But that's not a reality for us here." Keezer reached out to existing internet access providers, asking them to invest in the community. No providers were interested, likely because they viewed the sparsely populated area as a poor financial prospect. PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC BROADBAND In March 2016, the township board voted unanimously to conduct a feasibility study to learn more about the pros and cons of building

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