Chelsea School District Approves Fiber Agreement

By Seth Kinker,

On Nov. 26 the Chelsea Board of Education voted to approve an agreement between Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC) and the Chelsea School District (CSD) to provide MEC with two strands of dark fiber in order to provide broadband service to Lyndon Township.

In exchange, MEC will provide the CSD with fiber maintenance throughout the district, not just the two lines provided, for the duration of the agreement.

The agreement spans five years with the option for renewal at the end of those five years, and an option for review at the end of each year.

MEC has been working to bring broadband internet access to Lyndon Township since May. They ran into a roadblock with the railroad tracks that would have taken much longer to get permission to lay the necessary lines under the tracks.

On Sept. 5, Terry Rubenthaler, Chief Technology Officer of MEC made a presentation at a CSD board meeting regarding a potential partnership.

During Rubenthaler’ presentation to the board, he talked about connections being needed between Cassopolis, MI. (the headquarter of MEC) and Lyndon Township. MEC has been able to secure connections as far as downtown Chelsea, but connection from downtown Chelsea to Lyndon is still needed to get broadband internet access to Lyndon.

The proposal included MEC tapping into the fiber optic network that the CSD already has, as well as building off of what is already installed, in order to make the connection to Lyndon township.

In exchange for use of two strands of fiber, CSD has 12 and currently uses two, MEC would be able to strengthen and make the connection more reliable. In addition to a better connection, Rubenthaler also stated that MEC would be willing to maintain all the lines in the CSD. In exchange for use, they would make any repairs, take care of downed lines, troubleshoot, and update the system to current standards when need be.

Prior to this potential agreement, CSD didn’t have a maintenance contract with any company for their fiber-optic network.

“That was really the most attractive tradeoff for doing this outside of the fact that we were going to be able to contribute to help bring broadband service to our students and families in Lyndon township,” said Superintendent Julie Helber after the initial offer from MEC on Sept. 5.“In exchange for us to have someone maintain our fiber throughout the district, what this agreement does is help us. Each time a squirrel chews a line we have to contract that out. It’s typically around a couple thousand dollars to get that fixed. Having someone monitor a little more closely on the weekends, and there are so many day to day operations during the week that we’re not just sitting here monitoring our fiber. So, for them having someone to monitor and get someone to us maybe prior to an outage or something happening here is a benefit to all of us. And that cost avoidance of having to repair fiber breaks is also attractive too.”

A public forum took place before the board meeting on Nov. 26 for public input on the potential deal.

Ben Fineman, a Lyndon township resident and member of the committee working to bring broadband to Lyndon, thanked the board for their willingness to help.

Fineman told a community member in attendance that construction on laying the lines began in early November, beginning in the southeastern corner of the township moving in a counterclockwise direction. He also said that the township should be online by the end of 2019, with people starting to get broadband access as soon as February.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

Leave a Reply