Lakeshore taxpayers to vote on $8.7M high-speed Internet

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LAKETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The information superhighway is more like a washed-out two-track to Carrie Rodgers-O’Neal’s home in the Saugatuck Dunes.

It runs through a satellite dish and works best when the sun shines.

“It’s very slow, if non-existent,” Rodgers-O’Neal said Monday as she waited for her laptop to upload a video. At last check, the video hadn’t arrived.

That is why she supports an $8.7 million bond proposal to build a fiber-optic network throughout Laketown Township in northern Allegan County. The township is asking voters to approve that proposal in an election Tuesday.

The township would pay it off over 15 years through a 1.66-mill property tax hike that would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $166 a year.

“I think Internet access today is one of those requisites, like electricity and roads,” Rodgers-O’Neal said.

With slow Internet, she said she can’t work from home and it forced her children to drive miles, sometimes to Burger King, to finish online homework:

“Our kids have had to get in the car every evening and go elsewhere to do their homework,” she said.

If the proposal passes, the township would bury about 85 miles of fiber optic cable along its roads and another 120 miles to all 2,800 homes and businesses.

An Internet service provider would run the system, charging a monthly fee on top of the tax hike. Customers would not be required to hook up.

“Probably over half the township, geographically, is not served, it’s underserved,” said Township Manager Albert Meshkin. “They don’t have a good reliable Internet service they can use that’s economical.”

Especially, he said, the southern half of the township, which includes the Saugatuck Dunes.

The township manager said Internet providers aren’t serving the area because there aren’t enough customers to make it worthwhile.

The proposal has led to opposing Facebook pages. Opponents on Facebook say they believe the township is moving too fast.

Don Kaylor said he plans to vote no, though he’s not part of the organized opposition. He gets good TV reception, unless birds land on his antenna. He said he has no use for a tax hike for something like the Internet.

“What am I going to hook it up to?” Kaylor said. “Fiber optics. What’s it for? For a computer? I don’t have a computer.”

“So that that’s my Internet right there,” he said, pointing to his TV antenna.

If voters approve the measure, the township hopes to have the system up and running in a year.

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