(TNS) — LAKETOWN TWP., Mich. — Two years after voters rejected the controversial idea of a township-owned utility, most Laketown Township residents will finally have high-speed Internet.
Cable giant Comcast Corp. will be expanding its network to bring high-speed service to most of Laketown and Saugatuck townships in the coming months.
Michelle Gilbert, vice president of public relations for Comcast's Heartland Region, said crews will finalize network design over the next couple of weeks in the townships.
Then the infrastructure will be laid and connected to the existing network.
Comcast will not be able to release a network map for the two townships until the project is completed because changes can occur and problems can pop up during the build, the company said. However, the plan is to expand the network to as much of the township as possible.
The project will be completed in phases and should be finished around the end of the year, Gilbert said.
Gerry Wise said he and five other Laketown residents have been searching for reliable providers to bring Internet service to Laketown since 2016.
Wyse was "shocked" when he moved to the area about two and a half years ago and couldn't get broadband Internet.
"We said there has to be some solution for the underserved portion of the township," Wyse said. "We banded together to try and find that solution."
The biggest hurdle was finding a network that could be deployed at a reasonable cost to the residents, Wyse said.
Although Comcast is making a multi-million dollar investment in Laketown and Saugatuck townships, the infrastructure build should not cost residents anything, Gilbert said.
The Comcast proposal was everything Laketown residents have been looking for and a "no-brainer," Wyse said.
Residents in the townships have similar needs, which made it cost effective for Comcast to expand its network to these areas, Gilbert said.
Advancements in technology also made the expansion to the two townships possible for Comcast.
"In these two townships, there tends to be very large lots of land," Gilbert said. "With the technology available now, we are able to build fiber to the home versus building traditional coax cable."
This new technology came about in recent years and will make network expansion more cost effective than it was just five years ago, Gilbert said.
Laketown Township's $8.7 million millage in May 2016 would have used revenue to build a township-owned fiber-optic Internet cable network.
Although it was shot down by voters, 47 percent voted in favor of the proposal.
The proposal's opponents questioned whether Laketown officials could deliver on their promises of a faster and cheaper Internet service. They also argued that a millage — which taxes more on greater property values — was not a fair way of funding a network that everyone benefits from equally.
As Comcast moves forward with network expansion, Gilbert said service for Laketown and Saugatuck township residents will be priced depending on promotional costs at the time.
Service costs will also depend on what types of plans residents choose. Comcast will offer a variety of Internet speed options to new customers, ranging from 25 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second.
"Internet today is not a luxury, it's a necessity," Gilbert said. "We rely on Internet every single day for important functions like paying bills, staying connected with family and doing homework."
Wise said reliable Internet access will mean a lot to residents of Laketown Township.
"We are so excited for what this means to Laketown," Wise said. "Kids have had to go down to Burger King just to do their homework. I've gone to bed so frustrated with slow Internet speeds. It will be state-of-the-art technology and a real game changer."
©2018 Holland Sentinel, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.