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If Hillsdale City Council rat­ifies a con­tract between the Board of Public Util­ities and at the council’s Nov. 17 meeting, then the city of Hillsdale could get faster Internet and attract high-tech entre­pre­neurs.

The council did not ratify BPU’s deal with one of Michigan’s largest inde­pendent Internet providers at the Nov. 3 meeting due to “issues with the ver­biage” in the con­tract, Coun­cilperson Patrick Flannery said.

“My job is to mit­igate financial risk, but I would not give this to my employer to sign,” Flannery said.

Pending approval of the deal, BPU will install 144 new fiber optic cable pairs to increase band­width for Hillsdale busi­nesses and res­i­dents. Hillsdale Director of Eco­nomic Devel­opment Mary Wolfram said this will enhance Hillsdale’s ability to compete in a global market because the tech­nology is so “cutting edge.”

“This is really important for com­panies because com­panies do so much business through the Internet, down­loading huge data files,” Wolfram said. “The kind of data man­u­fac­turers download is blue­prints and indus­trial drawings, or sending out spec­i­fi­ca­tions of what they need. Most of our busi­nesses in Indus­trial Park man­u­facture products for another man­u­fac­turer. There’s a lot of that industry in Hillsdale.”

Band­width is the rate of data transfer between servers, so increased band­width means faster Internet and quicker down­loads. Because so much business relies on the Internet for basic func­tions, such as com­mu­ni­cation and product devel­opment, entre­pre­neurs are often attracted to cities with more band­width.

As opposed to using elec­tricity via copper wire, a fiber optic cable is similar to a glass thread which transfers data by shooting a laser down the cable. As opposed to atoms “bumping” into each other in a copper wire, a fiber optic cable transfers data at the speed of light, Wolfram said. Fiber optic tech­nology is the van­guard of data transfer.

“We’re in a position to attract high-tech com­panies, like data centers or those who use huge dis­tri­b­ution systems,” Wolfram said. “It’s kind of retro, it’s the same reason we got the railroad more than a hundred years ago — [it’s] because we’re in this southern location in Michigan. A lot of this is very geo­graph­i­cally ori­ented, even in our high-tech world.”

Hillsdale College is an instru­mental part of the fiber optic cable loop because the college’s Infor­mation Tech­nology Ser­vices department houses the data center for the cables. In 1992, the college became a member of the Merit Project, started by Merit Network, Inc., and in 2008 the first fiber optic cables were installed in Hillsdale, running east-west all the way to Chicago. In 2010, a loop of fiber optic cables — based in Hillsdale College’s data center — was installed around the city limits of Hillsdale.

Merit is the biggest Internet service provider in the state of Michigan, ITS Network Systems Manager Patrick Char­trand said.

“They’re huge,” Char­trand said. “Hillsdale College has more con­nec­tivity to the Internet than most schools.”

In Hillsdale, the fiber optic loop around the city boosts both band­width and con­nec­tivity.

“The main purpose for the loop is to have mul­tiple ways to connect to the Internet, so if one spot [in the loop] breaks, you don’t lose con­nec­tivity,” Char­trand said. “There are two primary loca­tions on the loops for Internet con­nec­tivity — one is at Hillsdale College and the backup is at BPU.”

BPU Director Rick Rose said wants to use the city of Hillsdale as a pilot project for con­necting busi­nesses and res­i­dents with fiber optic cables. Pre­vi­ously, Rose said, fiber optic cables in Hillsdale were used only by busi­nesses.

“ had an interest in part­nering with us,” Rose said. “It’s kind of like what Google is doing in Kansas City. This grants us com­pe­tition for broadband service — even­tually people will be able to move from cable to Internet streaming.”

In addition to part­nering with, BPU will help with the con­struction of the cables to bring down the cost.

“’s original bid was $219,000, but with us part­nering it’s $165,000,” Rose said. “We will assist them in getting their fiber backbone up in the loop. The majority [will be] within the city limits…that’s where will focus their energies, because they’ll have more density.”

If the city council rat­ifies BPU’s deal, Hillsdale could have the cables installed by March 2015, Rose said.

The next step is to advertise Hillsdale’s presence in the tech com­munity and solicit entre­pre­neurs, a task which Wolfram has already begun.

“I am going to the 2014 Michigan Broadband Con­ference held in Lansing, because there’s a lot of activity around this right now,” Wolfram said. “It’s going to take me or other people from Hillsdale going to these things, broad­casting it, and getting it out on our website so entre­pre­neurs know we have this ability to host high-tech com­panies.”

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Kate Patrick
Since she sold her soul to journalism, history major and Associate Editor Kate Patrick has covered business, the tech industry, city council, and city news in Washington, D.C.; Dayton, Ohio; Rockford, Illinois; and Hillsdale, Michigan. She creates extensive rock playlists and investigates abandoned buildings in her spare time. email: | twitter: @katepatrick_
  • Jeff King

    Sigh.… so much infor­mation being put out here. First of all, what Google is doing in Kansas city is direct fiber to home, not a fiber backbone. Huge dif­ference. Second, Kansas City didn’t have to sub­sidize Google in the market place… they paid their own way. Third, the private sector is already pro­viding internet at the same or higher speed in the city of Hillsdale then what is being pro­posed here.

    This command economy mindset isn’t the answer and sadly it seems they never learn

    – Gov­ernment Broadband Plan Was Tried and Failed in Hillsdale