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What is “Holland City Fiber?”

Holland City Fiber started an educational initiative to provide accurate information to Holland voters about the approved millage to install city-wide fiber optic infrastructure. Since the vote has passed, Holland City Fiber continues to be used in reference to the city-wide fiber network that will be built.

What is “HBPW Broadband?”

HBPW has owned and operated a fiber optic network in Holland for over 30 years. Initially designed to connect electrical substations, the service has expanded for business and residential uses, including broadband internet access through a pilot project in downtown Holland.

Do “fiber” and “broadband” mean the same thing?

While often used interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same thing. “Broadband“ is an inclusive term for any high-capacity technology that transmits data, voice or video over long distances, often connecting to the internet. The minimum FCC download speed for “broadband” is 25 megabits per second.

“Fiber” more specifically refers to fiber optic cables and networking equipment. Fiber is a type of broadband technology. Most fiber infrastructure can deliver 1 gigabit speeds and often up to 10 gigabit speeds, roughly 40 to 400 times faster than the minimum requirements for “broadband” speeds.

History & Rationale

Why are HBPW and the City of Holland pursuing a community owned fiber network?

A secure, sustainable and prosperous future needs great internet access. This initiative will create an Open Access infrastructure that gives residents and businesses access to faster internet at competitive prices.

The City and HBPW formed a joint task force in 2018 to survey residents and study the community’s needs for broadband internet. The findings show that the vast majority of residents are favorable to a community-owned solution that provides city-wide high speed internet access.

What’s more, the pandemic and need for flexibility in workstyles, education and healthcare have created major shifts in societal expectations around connectivity. These are accelerating the need for high speed internet to secure our community’s economic and educational future.

Why would HBPW build and manage the network?

HBPW has 30 years of experience in building and operating fiber optic infrastructure. The utility launched a pilot program for the downtown corridor in 2016, which has been reliable, economically successful, and consistently earns positive feedback from customers.

Holland BPW has a history of reliable utility services, efficient operations and accountability to its customer-owners.

How long will this investment last?

Fiber optic cable transfers data through light that passes through small glass strands wrapped in a protective casing. Glass is resistant to the elements and does not corrode like copper wire, which means it has a very long lifespan. In fact, Holland BPW has fiber that was installed over 30 years ago that is still fit for high performance on modern internet speeds. Fiber optic cable will continue to support the needs and speeds of electronics far into the future.

Holland BPW’s pricing model also includes funds to support upgrades to the technology running on the fiber network, making it a sustainable long-term investment without the need for additional funding. With these upgrades, the fiber network can continue to scale as the need for faster internet increases in the coming decades.

What are the benefits of Holland City Fiber?

Residents will have more choices for internet providers and local control of their broadband infrastructure. With greater choice and local control, residents would experience a top-quality network available to everyone at competitive prices and the ability to upgrade systems as future connectivity demands continue to grow.

Businesses and nonprofits will have improved connectivity and speed for smoother operations. Communities with fast, reliable internet are more attractive for talent and remote work opportunities.

With a fiber network, schools & educational institutions will be able to give students an advantage and more equitable access to technologies such as virtual learning and VR.

Healthcare organizations will be able to expand telemedicine and reduce overhead costs with reliable connections to patients at home.

Service-Related Questions

Who could be my Internet service provider (ISP)?

Holland City Fiber will create an Open Access network, with the goal of allowing residents more choice in local ISP options. Residents will be able to choose between several different ISPs (including services offered through Holland BPW) that offer service packages in a competitive market using the new fiber network.

What’s an Open Access network?

Since its inception, HBPW Broadband Services has been an Open Access network. Open Access means that HBPW provides the high speed network and delivery of data, but others offer services that use the network. Internet service is the most common use.

An Open Access network is much like our city roads. Roads are a community-owned and managed infrastructure that anyone is able to use. Consider package delivery. Using our common road infrastructure, you can receive packages from many different carriers. All service providers use the same road. Open Access networks operate the same way. HBPW may provide an option for internet service, but other providers are welcome to provide ISP services over our network.

Will I have to use Holland City Fiber or could I keep my current provider?

Residents will not need to utilize the new service and will be able to keep their current ISP, TV or phone services if desired. We believe new infrastructure and the ability to offer more choices for ISP providers will encourage competition among service providers and ultimately save the community money.

will Holland City Fiber include bundled services like phone and TV?

Participating internet service providers would have the choice of providing bundled packages. With these service providers, residents may opt for a bundled package, or purchase services separately. HBPW does not bundle broadband internet with phone or TV. For these “Over-the-Top” services, residents would have the freedom to choose virtually any streaming service (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc) or voice-over-IP service (Vonage, Ooma, and many others) they want to fulfill those needs using their internet connection.

How fast is fiber?

Service will be offered up to 10 gigabits per second through HBPW service options, though other providers may offer other speeds. The plan is for the base service offering to be 1 gigabit per second. This speed will efficiently serve our community’s network needs today and into the future.

What about my privacy? will there be any difference between being on this network and my current provider’s network?

HBPW delivers the data but does not look at it. Partner ISPs have a choice on privacy. Some, for example, may provide a low-cost service in exchange for access to your internet usage habits. You should contact your current provider to learn more about their privacy policy.

What about my security? will there be any difference between being on this network and my current provider’s network?

Our network security protocols are maintained and updated regularly to meet or exceed industry standards. The security of our network is equal to or better than the security provided by other networks.

What to Expect with Taxes

What areas would be included in Holland City Fiber?

Holland City Fiber will be available to all residents and businesses within the Holland city limits. The proposed millage will be limited to properties in city limits as well.

When will it be available?

HBPW expects to break ground on the project in 2023. Schedules are not yet complete, however we estimate the project will take approximately 3 years to complete. Service will activate in sections of the city as they are completed.

Why is a community investment required?

The infrastructure is designed to serve all members of our community. The network is similar to our roads—all community members have access and invest in the infrastructure. Secondly, community investment is long-term. A commitment by the residents of Holland allows us to spread the cost over many years to minimize the individual annual cost.

will this raise my taxes?

Yes. The investment calls for a millage that was approved on Aug. 2, 2022. A millage is a tool for spreading a community investment over a long period of time. However, when you look at the total out-of-pocket expense for internet service, it will be comparable to what you pay today, but for a faster, more reliable internet connection.

What will the millage be?

The millage amount will levy 1.2 mills the first year and up to an estimated 1.12 mills each year after for the life of the bond. The language on the ballot read as follows:

“Shall the City of Holland, Michigan borrow the principal amount of not to exceed $30,000,000 and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds for all or a portion of that amount in one or more series payable over not to exceed 25 years from the date of issue of each series for the purpose of financing all or a part of the expansion of the City’s broadband internet transport services, including but not limited to the engineering and design, acquisition, construction, installation and expansion of its fiber optics network and associated facilities, and all work and equipment necessary or incidental to these improvements, including the acquisition of the sites and right-of-ways therefore.

The following is for informational purposes only: The estimated millage that will be levied for the proposed bonds for the first year of levy is 1.5 mill(s) ($1.50 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds is 1.12mills ($1.12 for each $1,000 of taxable value).”

When will the millage show up on my taxes?

The first millage will be due as part of the Summer 2024 tax bill for City of Holland property owners.

The millage specifics (amount, years, etc.) will be based on the total project costs and results of the bond sale (interest rate, repayment schedule, etc.). The millage will start about a year after the bond sale. The bond sale is expected to occur in late Summer/Fall 2023, aligned with the start of construction.

How much will this cost me every month?

Holland City Fiber is designed to be competitive with existing Internet services. Holland BPW will serve as one option for ISP. We expect to provide internet service for about $45/month* with no up-front fees to join the network. 

*Estimate based on 2021 CTC cost study and assumed take rate of 51%.

Other Questions? Reach Out.