There currently exists high speed internet fiber in our area that is only accessible to schools, governments and hospitals. In many instances, companies are left with internet service that is less than adequate or unavailable. Through the NLEA Broadband Consortium, companies located within participating counties will have an additional option for services.
This consortium is the necessary legal entity that will enable companies within participating counties to access this high-speed fiber. By collaborating, we could also have influence in establishing new routes that would benefit multiple public and private users. This is not a utility, nor an effort to own or operate an internet service. It is simply an opportunity for companies to tap into existing infrastructure and a formal approach for public/private sector to collaborate for the benefit of all.
There are several examples throughout our NLEA region where our informal NLEA Broadband efforts have assisted companies to receive much needed high speed internet and competitive bids to compare pricing with current service providers. Both options saved companies money and provided better service. The NLEA Board feels that now is the time to formalize our efforts for greater impact.
Hats off to Charlevoix Commissioner (and NLEA Board member) Chris Christensen for leading this effort with a “missionary zeal” over the past several years. His leadership, along with Charlevoix County Administrator Kevin Shepard (also NLEA Board member) and consultant Eric Granstaff have been instrumental in the progress made on this important effort. Buck Love (NLEA Business Retention) serves as our staff lead.
The next steps will be for county commissioners to determine if they want to offer this option for companies in their counties. There is no cost to the counties, but the boards do need to pass a resolution supporting the effort and join the consortium. Charlevoix County officially joined on Dec. 12th, and Emmet, Cheboygan and Antrim Counties are expected to act on their proposed resolution during December and January.
By gaining access to this additional “backbone” option, local providers will benefit as the participating companies will choose who their last mile provider will be. The Consortium can provide technical expertise to assist companies in weighing their options as well as offering suggestions for routes that could benefit the most possible.