October 1, 2021
Recently Washtenaw County announced plans to bring broadband access to all residents of the county. This is made possible by use of funds from the American Rescue Act Plan Act (ARPA). Municipalities and counties around the country have been allocated recovery funds based upon their populations. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved the use of $14.6M of these funds for broadband expansion in the County. These funds will be awarded to private providers to build and own infrastructure in unserved areas of the county.
Some Lyndon Township residents have asked the question of whether any of these funds will go to Lyndon Township. While Lyndon Township will not receive any funding from this Washtenaw County ARPA disbursement, the Township is pursuing the use of ARPA funds to complete the planned construction of an additional fiber route connecting the Township to the broader internet. This will increase both resiliency and future capacity of our network. The use of ARPA funds should also allow remaining unused bond funds to be used to retire our bond earlier. Possibly up to $300,000 will be available to pay down the bond.
While other rural Washtenaw County townships will be gaining access to broadband, we need to remember they will be paying for their service from for profit private providers. Due to the public ownership of Lyndon Township’s network, Lyndon Township residents pay lower prices than those offered by these private providers. As an example, Lyndon Township’s most popular level of service, “Ultra” at 250 Mbps download and upload, costs $44.95/month. This compares favorably to similar service offerings from providers pursuing Washtenaw County funds – MEC charges $79.95/month (for customers on MEC owned fiber), Comcast charges $86/month, and Charter charges $94.99/month. Even when including the millage used to fund Lyndon Township’s infrastructure, most township residents are paying less than they would if our fiber were privately owned. When the bond is retired, the savings will be even greater and will continue for decades to come, as buried fiber optic cables have an estimated usable life of at least 50 years.
Finally, the timeline for neighboring townships to receive service is uncertain. It is estimated that some Washtenaw County households will not receive service until the end of 2025, while service has been available to all of Lyndon Township since the end of 2020.