Forum: Propelling Traverse City forward

Arends

It is time for the public sector, namely Traverse City Light & Power, to step in and build a new and needed fiber broadband network that will bring low-cost, reliable internet service to all residents and businesses in our city and beyond.

Since our community wants the kind of vital economic growth that attracts new businesses and retains talent, we need to have the right infrastructure in place. We need fiber to the home and business; today’s digital economy demands it.

Fiber makes it possible to transmit huge amounts of data at the speed of light. Telehealth, e-commerce, smart city and smart grid applications, distance learning, remote jobs and public safety and emergency services applications depend on these connections. With 5G (next generation wireless) on the horizon, we need to be ready; you can’t have 5G wireless without fiber-line infrastructure.

As with many other municipalities, TCL&P, a public utility, needs to build the new network because — simply put — private sector carriers have not at an affordable price. They’ve deemed rewiring our entire community as not economically feasible. So unless we act, we’ll be stuck with the old copper and coaxial cable lines that cannot keep pace with modern technological demands. If TCL&P builds the network, we will enjoy fast, efficient, modern internet access that’s affordable and available to everyone.

As a public utility, TCL&P enjoys certain advantages.

First, our focus is on the community and providing reliable service. Second, we’re competitive: TCL&P has some of the lowest rates in Michigan, where 45 electric utilities operate. We are nonprofit and will only charge the actual cost of providing the service. No shareholders receiving dividends. Third, we already own fiber infrastructure, which is underutilized and could be expanded for the benefit of the community, so we won’t be starting from scratch. Fourth, we already have systems in place to manage and maintain the system. Fifth, to foster innovation, we will design the system to allow for cutting-edge services (based on community need) like telehealth.

Should TCL&P transform our workplaces, modernize healthcare access and meet the changing needs of education and business? Should TCL&P bring greater efficiency to municipal services, transportation and communications? Should TCL&P do this for our community?

If the TCL&P board votes in the affirmative, we will, in effect, propel Traverse City into the 21st century digital economy.

After years of education, analysis and careful consideration of this major initiative, the board finally will be asked to make an informed decision on moving forward (or not) at its meeting on Tuesday, June 11, at 5:15 p.m. in the Commission Chambers at the Governmental Center. These community volunteer members care what their constituent’s desire for the direction of their municipal utility.

If you have an opinion, one way or the other, you may reach out to all members of the board at board@tclp.org, or attend the meeting in person.

About the author: Tim Arends is the executive director of Traverse City Light & Power.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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