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Detroit launches plan for its own high-speed internet infrastructure

Crain’s Detroit Business
Apr. 20, 2022
Nick Manes

A west side Detroit neighborhood has been selected as the area in which the city will start to roll out its plan to develop its own fiberoptic internet infrastructure.

City officials announced Wednesday that work will begin next month in the Hope Village neighborhood, located between the Lodge and Davison freeways, Dexter to the west and Hamilton to the east. Plans call for a $10 million pilot project in the neighborhood, using American Rescue Plan Act funding, and aimed at delivering “high speed fiber optic internet access to every home and business” in the neighborhood, according to a news release.

In short, the city hopes to use the pilot as a way of narrowing Detroit’s so-called “digital divide.”

The Hope Village section of the city, home to about 5,700 people, experienced a 45-day internet outage during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city said in the release. Completion of the infrastructure work in the neighborhood is expected to come next year.

“The city is building a fiber optic network because fiber is the future,” reads a city presentation on the initiative. “Fiber optic cable has more than 10,000 times the capacity of the wires available in Detroit today. That means it is faster, more reliable, and it will last for decades.”

Additional federal funds could be requested for further expansion of the fiberoptic internet cable, according to the presentation.

News of Hope Village’s selection to kick off the pilot project was first reported last week by Bridge Detroit.

Crain’s reported in February on the city’s still emerging plans to build its fiber internet infrastructure.

“We’re building an automated open access network,” Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion, said in a news release Wednesday. “Open access operates like our airports and roads. The city provides the infrastructure and internet service providers can use the fiber lines the city installs to deliver service to residents.”

By doing so, the city can own the infrastructure, which would then be made available to service providers like Comcast and AT&T, “fostering competition and lowering costs for customers,” according to the release.

The idea of creating such a network stems from a recommendation by Connect 313, a Detroit organization focused on digital inclusion. The Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation and Connect Humanities provided funding for initial research, engineering and network design, the release says.

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