Saugatuck Township Residents Ask Officials To Look Into High-Speed Internet Service
Laketown Township’s electorate may have turned down - by a thin margin - the idea of their local government owning a high-speed Internet network, but that is precisely the idea some Saugatuck Township residents pitched to their representatives at last Wednesday’s township board meeting.
“I call it the electric magnetic black hole of Saugatuck Township, it’s like living in the 17th century,” says township resident and merchant Chuck Myers about the frustration of having to deal with Internet speed often running as low as 2 Mbps or 1.5 Mbps.
Myers says he has to remain at his co-owned business Scooters Café & Pizzeria after-hours in downtown Saugatuck just for the simple reason that he has to be online in order to work; the service at his township home just isn’t up to par.
Just like others township residents present at Wednesday’s meeting, Myers’ provider is Frontier which delivers services via DSL (uses copper telephones lines to deliver service at the same time as landline telephone service) or gets service using mobile Wi-Fi hotspots.
Frontier offers a maximum speed of 5 Mbps (megabits of data per second), but bandwidth too often drops to about 2 Mbps or 1.5 Mbps, particularly after 5 p.m. or weekends, say residents.
They want the township to explore the availability of high-speed service and research options, particularly fiber-optic technology, which was part of the Laketown millage proposal in the May 3 election that was defeated. Wired broadband that is 25Mbps or faster would be ideal, say proponents.
“You would own the (fiber-optic) pipeline and they (providers) would provide the services and packages,” said Myers.
“I couldn’t agree with you more (about the need for fast Internet), but I don’t know the answers,” Saugatuck Township Supervisor Bill Wester told attendees. Nevertheless, township trustees agreed to develop a special committee dedicated to studying the issue and find out what they could do for residents.
First, there is one important mystery to solve, as pointed out by Saugatuck Township Board Member Roy McIIwaine when he said, “We have to at least find out who gets service now (and what kind).”
Also present at the meeting and equally frustrated as Myers, Patrick Stewart said, “It’s just not sustainable for this community (to go without having high-speed Internet).”
Patrick and wife Charlotte Stewart reiterated what they wrote in their May 3 letter to township officials, that stated, in part, “If a significant portion of the township is under served for internet services, we feel that those students, businesses (and) working professionals affected will rapidly fall behind. If so, then it negatively impacts the entire township as well.”
They said they liked Laketown Township’s recent effort wherein trustees requested a $8.7 million millage approval from residents in the May 3 election to build a fiber-optic Internet cable network that would have served every Laketown home.
The millage proposal was defeated by a very thin margin, 872 votes in support of the measure versus 982 against, with 40 percent of voters turning out for the election, according to the voting results.
Given the close vote, township officials say they will continue to explore the issue.