Grosse Pointe Woods City Council weighs high-speed network options

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 22, 2018

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The Grosse Pointe Woods City Council is considering whether or not to join into a consortium with other local government entities in the Grosse Pointes to bring a high-speed fiber network to the city.

At the May 14 committee of the whole meeting, known as COW, the City Council gathered information about the high-speed fiber network that could come to Grosse Pointe Woods should the City Council approve it.

Sales associate Lucas Ottinger, from Rocket Fiber, based in Detroit, made a presentation to the council about the high-speed fiber network based on an analysis that the company compiled. The committee of the whole meetings are open to the public.

“It was an informational meeting,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Pro Tem Arthur Bryant said. “We had some discussion, and there were some concerns about the cost.”

According to Ottinger, the construction of the network’s fiber ring and laterals would replace the city’s current internet lease and services expenditure with a shared 10 gigabit per second circuit that Rocket Fiber would provide. Rocket Fiber would be the construction firm to install the fiber ring and laterals, should the city become part of the consortium.

The fiber network, if approved, would feature faster data transfer and internet service for Grosse Pointe Woods city offices, businesses and residents, and is designed to attract younger families to the community.

Residents and businesses would have the option to tie into the lateral connections, and there was discussion regarding the addition of laterals to City Hall, the Department of Public Works, and Lake Front Park.

According to Rocket Fiber’s analysis, capital costs for the initiative would cost the city of Grosse Pointe Woods $286,317. Rocket Fiber computed the city’s internet lease/service costs to be $23,822 annually, and those costs would be replaced with depreciation with construction of the ring infrastructure. Should the council approve the system, the project would be paid for from the city’s internet/cable funds.

Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Gary Niehaus, who has spearheaded the initiative, was at the May 14 committee of the whole meeting. The other entities asked to participate are Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Shores, Harper Woods, the Grosse Pointe Public School System and the Grosse Pointe Public Library.

The total cost for the consortium is $2,831,576, according to Rocket Fiber, and each entity would pay a fee into the consortium to be a part of the network. According to Rocket Fiber’s analysis, the infrastructure would last 25 to 30 years, but the analysis also reflected a shorter useful life for depreciation purposes.

In an email, Niehaus said Rocket Fiber was the low bidder for the construction of the 14-mile speed fiber network, and the system would take one year to build. The network’s direct connect would be located at Parcells Middle School in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The Grosse Pointe Woods City Council will vote at a later date on whether or not to join the consortium. At the committee of the whole meeting, Bryant was one of the City Council members who spoke in favor of bringing the system to the Woods.

“I think it’s an important thing for the future,” Bryant said. “It’s going to add more speed. You can open more of your system and you’re able to operate your system better.”

At the meeting, Grosse Pointe Woods Councilmember Todd McConaghy also expressed interest in bringing the high-speed fiber network to the city, especially since it has potential to attract new businesses and people.

“I look at it as an investment in the future,” he said.

The Grosse Pointe City Council voted unanimously April 16 to join the partnership. At its May 7 City Council meeting, the Grosse Pointe Park City Council approved joining the consortium contingent upon the other cities also joining. According to Niehaus, the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education will vote on the intergovernmental agreement at the June 11 school board meeting.

Niehaus said the long-term benefit of the network would be that the Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods communities would have high-speed fiber available for residential and business customers.  

“We would be the first suburban community outside of downtown Detroit to have high-speed fiber available to residential and business customers,” he said.

According to Rocket Fiber’s website, rocketfiber.com, the company was founded in 2014 as part of the Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans family of companies. The internet service provider is dedicated to bringing gigabit internet to residents and businesses in Detroit and beyond.

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