The town of Sebewaing -- a small community in Michigan's thumb best known for being the state's sugar beet capital -- has joined the ranks of the most connected cities in the US with the launch of a gigabit network.
That network was built by Sebewaing Light and Water (SLW), the town's municipally owned utility. Sebewaing is the epitome of the underserved rural community and, as such, stands as a true test of both what a gigabit network can mean for small-town residents and its potential impact on economic development. (See 1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You and Utility Brings Gigabit to Oregon Town .)
By branding the town as the "Gigabit Village," the leaders of the town of 1,800 people near Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay hope the ultra-high-speed broadband network might help make Sebewaing more connected and inject some needed new life into the local economy. (See Postcards From the Gigabit Village.)
"If we get one new business out of this, it will have been worth it," says Melanie McCoy, superintendent of SWL.
So far, response to service availability has been favorable, relative to the size of the community. SLW connected the first customers last July and, as of December, had received 375 orders and installed broadband service to 180 customers, McCoy says -- pretty good for a community with about 1,000 total homes that have no data connectivity options other than DSL. "Everyone here wanted fast Internet service," McCoy says. "They were hungry for it."
The utility needs 50% penetration to give it a seven- to eight-year payback on the network investment, she says. SLW is offering four tiers of symmetrical service, with pricing the same for businesses and residential customers: 30 Mbit/s up and down for $35 per month, 50 Mbit/s up and down for $55 per month, 100 Mbit/s up and down for $105 per month, and 1 Gbit/s up and down for $160 per month.
Only one customer -- a local campground -- has signed up for a full gig to date, but McCoy expects some customers to upgrade as SLW continues to educate residents about the service.
SLW deployed the E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform from Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), as well as Calix's x 844G GigaCenters, which leverage 802.11ac wave 2 WiFi. The network was built by Earthcom, a Lansing-based network construction firm. The utility received no federal funding for the network buildout. Instead, all the money came from its capital reserve fund, and any profit SLW makes goes back into that fund.
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading