Grosse Pointe Park says ‘yes’ to Rocket Fiber high-speed data service

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 5, 2018

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Grosse Pointe Park is one of the latest governmental entities in the Pointes to ink an agreement with Detroit-based Rocket Fiber to bring a fiber optic network for high-speed data service to the Pointes.

After a presentation May 7 in front of the Park City Council, the council voted unanimously in favor of an agreement in which the Park will pay about $240,000 for the system, which will feature equipment drops at City Hall and the Park Farmers Market.

Rocket Fiber — which was the low bidder that responded to the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s request for proposal, or RFP — will provide 20 years of complimentary maintenance along with construction of the fiber connections. The Park’s approval of the agreement is contingent on approval from all of the other Pointes, the GPPSS, the Grosse Pointe Public Library and Harper Woods. At press time, Grosse Pointe City, the GPPSS and the GPPL had signed agreements with Rocket Fiber.

Fiber optic data is said to be much faster than what’s available now. If the cities all sign the Rocket Fiber agreement, Rocket Fiber would also build a network for residents and businesses, so that they could purchase this data service for their homes or offices. The governmental portion of the system is just for governmental use; individuals would have the option to sign up with Rocket Fiber — just like they now sign up for data plans with providers like Comcast or Verizon Wireless — or they could continue to use their current data plan provider.

The governmental entities would own their portion of the ring and would have the option to extend service to other nonprofits in the community, such as private schools and organizations like the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. The cities in this way might also receive some income from those “customers.”

“The U.S. is really lagging behind other countries in fiber optic internet,” said Lucas Ottinger, who works in business sales and development for Rocket Fiber.

He said Rocket Fiber is the “third fastest internet provider in America” and is up and running 99 percent of the time, giving it “extreme reliability.”

“Service is also a major pillar of our business,” Ottinger said. “(We) look at people as partners, not as clients.”

He explained that the ring design gives Rocket Fiber the ability to reroute data traffic if one section of the ring goes down, giving it “redundancy upon redundancy.”

Ottinger said the Park pays about $977 per month now, or roughly $11,000 annually, for internet services. That cost is likely to increase under the existing model, as municipalities need to use more and more data. In addition, Ottinger said the city would no longer need to pay service fees to repair the system, at least for the 20 years of the agreement.

City Councilman Daniel Grano said that while he wasn’t opposed to the concept, he asked why government should get involved in private business.

City Councilman Daniel Clark said the answer is in numbers.

“It may not be economically viable to go to (just) one community,” said Clark, noting that the government consortium gives them a greater footprint, enabling them to draw a provider like Rocket Fiber to build the fiber optic system.

“We’re provided with a vital service,” Clark continued of fiber optic data. “The school system is provided with a vital service. And residents are provided with a service that otherwise might not be possible. There are compelling government interests, and those interests spill out into the public. This is a way to bring the future to the present.”

Park officials hope the higher speed data availability will draw more young families and new businesses to the community. Mayor Robert Denner called this “a great opportunity for the east side communities,” as well as an asset for the schools.

“The lifeblood of our communities is the success of our school system,” Denner said.

If all of the entities approve the agreement, Ottinger said it would take about a year to construct the ring and start offering service.