Nearby historic neighborhoods.
The vivid images are a daily reminder of his big-picture goal these days: bring affordable, reliable and fast Internet to all of Holland, not just his growing web and mobile software firm Collective Idea.
“Internet is a must-have,” Morrison said as his employees collaborated nearby at a standing desk platform crawling with technology. “I want it to be like a utility.”
How can that be accomplished? Fiber Internet service provided by a utility, the Holland Board of Public Works. We’re talking seriously fast Internet, 1,000 Mbps, or 1 Gbps, which he said is significantly higher than the 3 -300 Mbps people are seeing on typical broadband services.
Morrison said Holland Fiber, an informal group of residents and business owners he joined two years ago, has been advocating Fiber for years with little success. However, after the recent release of a proposed business plan for comprehensive Fiber Internet service in Holland, the group is feeling optimistic.
The 118-page report, which Morrison has started combing through, is a good first step, he said. The Holland City Council and Holland BPW Board of Directors will begin reviewing it during a special joint meeting on Wednesday, March 30.
But more steps are needed.
“This isn’t the full story. This is how you build it,” Morrison said. “My goal is to keep pressure on the city and the BPW to turn this into action steps. What do we do now? How do we do it?”
Highlights of report
Morrison said the Holland BPW has an existing Fiber Internet infrastructure that some commercial customers use. However, it’s current pricing is cost prohibitive for most small businesses and residential customers to get connected.
The new report, compiled by CTC Technology & Energy, recommends the following price structure:
- A 1 Gbps residential service at $80 per month
- A 1 Gbps small commercial service at $85 per month
- A 1 Gbps medium commercial service at $220 per month (including service-level agreement)
Morrison said his initial reaction was that price still seemed high, especially since communities like Sandy, Oregon have rolled out Fiber Internet for about $60 a month.
“Given the size of the required capital investment, the HBPW could approach a network deployment in a phased manner. For example, the HBPW could start in the City, and do early deployment where take rates are highest (i.e., building out in neighborhoods where a certain percentage of residents have committed to buying service). Such an approach would lead to ubiquity but, in the short term, would help the HBPW to manage its capital costs and risks.”
Another important finding involved marketing the Fiber Internet service. Throughout the report, the consultants stressed the Holland BPW should avoid competing directly with existing Internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T.
“A 1 Gbps service that is expandable to 10 Gbps and beyond may be the differentiator that the HBPW needs to stand out. By focusing on an extremely powerful data-only offering and communicating with users about the potential advantages of a high-performance, unfettered data product, the HBPW may spark the shift in the market it needs to be successful. The goal is … to focus on unbundling, and effectively encouraging consumers to leverage the data service to its fullest capacity—by not emulating traditional providers and focusing on television lineup as a selling feature.”
Ultimate benefits to the area
With a pilot program of Fiber Internet ongoing at places like Lemonjellos and Collective Idea and formal discussions starting to appear on government agendas, the #HollandFiber has started appearing on social media:
— Andrew Meyers (@andrewmeyers) February 5, 2016
— Brian Burch (@brianburch) January 30, 2016
Morrison said bringing Fiber Internet to Holland will ultimately help attract companies and jobs to the area. It also will bring technology workers who can live anywhere, but want to live somewhere affordable, cool and with fast Internet at home.
Speaking of fast Internet at home, the lack of it can turn off prospective homeowners.
Sarah Lilly, an associate broker at Five Star Real Estate Lakeshore, said she’s experienced the effect of an Internet-related issue firsthand.
“When assisting buyers with the purchase of a home, they frequently ask about Internet speed and reliability,” she said. “When we look at a house in the Laketown (Township) area, for example, I will disclose that the Internet is not reliable in certain areas and owners frequently use satellite or hot spot on their phones. Many times the buyers elect to not even walk through the house because Internet is too important to their work or their personal lives.”
The new triple play
As 2016 plays out, Holland Fiber will continue to meet and work with the Holland BPW to craft a vision for Internet service in Holland.
Morrison has an idea for how to reframe the discussion moving forward.
“You’re ‘triple play’ is now electric, water and Internet rather than cable, Internet and phone,” he said.