Grosse Pointe Shores still mulling Rocket Fiber high-speed data proposal

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 2, 2018

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The Grosse Pointe Public School System and Grosse Pointe City and Park are among the governmental entities that have voted in favor of joining a consortium to bring high-speed fiber optic data to the community, but some cities — including Grosse Pointe Shores — haven’t made a final decision. 

Spearheaded by the GPPSS, the cities and the Grosse Pointe Public Library are considering a proposal from Detroit-based fiber optic provider Rocket Fiber to build a network in the Pointes and Harper Woods. A consortium consisting of the governmental entities would own their own fiber connections, and Rocket Fiber would install its own fiber at the same time to offer high-speed data services to residents and businesses in the Pointes. Rocket Fiber has offered to provide 20 years of maintenance along with the fiber connections, but the cities are still facing steep costs to build the network.

Shores officials listened to a presentation by Rocket Fiber CEO Marc Hudson during a June 19 City Council meeting. Hudson said Rocket Fiber started with a mission of making downtown Detroit “the most connected downtown in the country.”

“Speed and service are really our two hallmarks,” Hudson said. 

The Shores is considering laterals to City Hall and Osius Park.

The cost for the Shores to have two laterals, become part of the consortium and also connect to shared rings to Wayne State University and Macomb Community College — which the other Pointes are also doing — would be $265,176, according to the agreement. 

“Everyone shares the same base ring cost,” said Hudson, adding that the costs for the laterals to WSU and MCC are on a pro rata basis.

The WSU and MCC shared rings allow the consortium to control costs and purchase redundancy options, Hudson said.

“That protects you if there is an outage,” he explained. “That allows you to have multiple redundancy (points).”

Hudson said this would be a $2.2 million project, with the shared rings to WSU and MCC costing another roughly $900,000.

Besides a potential long-term savings on internet and other data costs for the municipalities, supporters of this proposal say it would attract young professionals and businesses to the community because this type of rapid data service is considered very desirable.

According to the Quicken Loans website, the Detroit-based Rocket Fiber is a “fiber optic internet provider that’s bringing rocket-speed gigabit internet and HDTV to the city” and is “100 times faster than the average residential (internet) connection.” Rocket Fiber was founded in 2014 and is part of the Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans family of companies.

Mayor Ted Kedzierski asked why the cost to the Shores was about $25,000 more than the cost to Grosse Pointe Park, a larger city. Lucas Ottinger, who works in business sales and development for Rocket Fiber, said this was because the Park “chose to have just one lateral,” to its City Hall.

Shores officials weren’t ready to vote on this issue at their June meeting.

“Our Finance Committee really hasn’t voted on this,” Kedzierski said.

City Councilman Bruce Bisballe, chair of the Finance Committee, said they looked at the cost to the city about a month ago. He made a motion to send this back to the Finance Committee “for further review.” The council voted unanimously in favor of doing that.

Bisballe said he hoped the council would be making a decision on whether or not to approve the Rocket Fiber agreement at its July meeting. At press time, the agenda hadn’t been prepared yet for that meeting, which is slated to take place at 7 p.m. July 17.

In order for the consortium to move forward, all of the governmental entities need to vote in favor of it.

If all of the governmental entities approve it soon, Hudson said their goal would be to bring the network online by the summer of 2019; they hope to have the system in place for the 2019-20 school year. 

Residential service would be built next.

“It’s safe to say it would be at least six months to a year after the core ring build” before residential service would be available, Hudson said.