SHARE

Follow Kate on Twitter

If Hillsdale City Council rat­ifies a con­tract between the Board of Public Util­ities and ACD.net 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 ACD.net 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.

“ACD.net 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 ACD.net, BPU will help with the con­struction of the cables to bring down the cost.

“ACD.net’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 ACD.net 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.”

Follow Kate on Twitter

SHARE
Previous articleHalloween hits Hillsdale
Next articleKappa stomps out hunger
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: kpatrick@hillsdale.edu | 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

    http://www.mackinac.org/4112