2018-11-15 / Views

Reader's Forum: Progress reported by internet group

By Patricia Soutas-Little and Ron Plamondon

You may be asking, what happened to the Internet survey I completed some time ago? Recently, the Leelanau Internet Futures Team (LIFT), created by the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation, launched its action plan for provision of high-speed Internet services throughout Leelanau County following two years of dedicated research and work on this project.

Armed with baseline data regarding our County’s Internet needs and current services, LIFT convened multiple meetings with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), both those offering services currently in Leelanau County and those interested in doing so. One-on-one meetings with select providers followed discussing their business plans, barriers to service and willingness to work collaboratively in expanding high-speed capabilities in our County.

After completing a survey of township zoning ordinances, additional meetings were held with local township zoning administrators and planners to discuss barriers limiting Internet service expansion and determine if the zoning regulations could be harmonized and streamlined.

The Problem

High Speed Internet service no longer is a luxury, it is a necessity to individuals for activities of daily living, including health via telemedicine, for students, for farmers and to sustain the well being of our economy. Although LIFT found residents of Leelanau County want highspeed Internet service, they don’t want towers marring the beauty of the landscape. Expanding Internet service across the County where fiber is unavailable requires fixed wireless connectivity, but wireless ISPs need towers to broadcast their signals.

LIFT’s Solution

The challenge became finding a solution that took into consideration our County’s Internet needs, current lack of services, barriers to service expansion, zoning requirements, and resident concerns regarding proliferation of towers. LIFT hit upon what they believe is the best solution at this time—use the five County-owned towers to co-locate multiple ISPs.

In May following presentation of their plan to the County Board of Commissioners, LIFT requested ISPs be allowed to use the County towers for provision of high-speed Internet service. The Commissioners unanimously agreed and approved a contract to locate Elevate Net on all five County towers and allow Cherry Capital Connection to remain on two of the towers. A third provider, Agri- Valley, plans to submit a contract to pilot service on two towers. Both Elevate Net and Agri-Valley are new to the County and Cherry Capital is considering location on a third tower. The Grand Traverse Band has laid fiber in select areas of the County. Current discussion of ISP collaboration with the GTB Internet Director, a member of LIFT, offers additional service opportunities to residents.

How Do I get more Information?

To see a map showing county tower locations, LIFT reports, suggestions on what you can do now, and other information visit our FB page https://www.facebook.com/LeelanauLIFT/. If you lack Internet service you can request these documents at your local library. The LIFT committee thanks those who completed the survey on Internet uses to define the problem so that the committee could explore solutions. If you want your contact information shared with current or potential ISPs, please email us at LeelanauLIFT@gmail.com.

About the authors: Patricia Soutas- Little, chairs the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation and the LIFT committee, and currently serves as Leelanau County Commissioner for Centerville & Leland Townships. Ron Plamondon is the Leelanau County Information Technology Director, and serves as a member of LIFT.

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Please accept this

Please accept this clarification: The county commissioners approved the suggested proportionate fee scheduled worked out between Emergency Management, County administration and Cherry Capital Communications (CCC). This modified fee schedule enables the Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) community deployment model to take advantage of and utilize the 5 county assets. Emergency Management then incorporated into the CCC asset lease language for all assets. The lease is an extension of efforts that started over 15 years a go. The fee schedule prior to this adjustment charged the same amount for a 1 foot antenna as an 8 foot antenna. The proportionate fee schedule charges by the foot allowing smaller antennas commonly used by the WISP community to collocate on county assets. CCC is pleased to service the Leelanau County community and we thank the Commissioners, Emergency management, administration and staff for their willingness to address this barrier to deployment.