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The Ottawa County Fillmore Complex in West Olive is currently without power, impacting its ability to serve customers.

This includes the Sheriff headquarters, Clerk, Register of Deeds and Treasurer offices as well as today's inmate visits at the jail and hearings in the West Olive court. Other locations such as Holland, Grand Haven and Hudsonville are operating and providing services and hearings.

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Countywide Broadband Internet

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Digital Inclusion Strategy - Improving Access for Everyone

As the way we use technology has evolved from opening files on floppy disk drives to cloud computing, so has the demand for internet connectivity. The way education, business, health care, and social interaction are increasingly being conducted makes it clear high-speed internet service is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity both now and into the future.

But broadband service in Ottawa County continues to be inconsistent – many areas lack service, experience poor service, or residents simply can’t afford high-speed internet. Ottawa County is actively working to address these persistent gaps in high-speed internet service through a new Digital Inclusion Strategy.

This initiative is about establishing complete, fixed broadband access across all areas of the County, and eventually West Michigan as a whole. Building off the County’s previous efforts to help facilitate broadband expansion countywide, Department of Strategic Impact and Ottawa Area Intermediate School District (OAISD) representatives began meeting in early 2020 to lay out a multi-phased strategy to address digital inclusion gaps.

  •   Broadband Internet Survey and Speed Test

    Now, more than ever, broadband Internet is an essential and crucial service to those who live, learn and work in Ottawa County. In some areas of Ottawa County, high-speed Internet is not available. In order to bridge this digital divide, the committee needs to gain a better picture of which properties do not have the essential internet they need. For this, we need your help!

    Take the Survey and Speed Test!

    Note that we have TWO surveys. Please select the option that applies to you and/or your household’s situation:

    Yes, I Have Internet Installed at Home Survey


    I have internet installed at my house.
    Simply put, fixed Internet provides Internet access to a single physical location. You cannot take a fixed internet source “with you.” Examples of fi xed Internet include wired Internet, satellite Internet, dish and DSL.

    No, I Don't Have Internet Installed at Home Survey


    I can only access the internet by mobile device, such as cell phone or hotspot.
    Your internet access is, for example, provided through a cell phone company, such as AT&T, Verizon T-Mobile. It can travel “with you.”

    Other Ways to Complete the Survey

    • BY TEXT - Text @MOON to 1-855-613-1746
    • BY PAPER - Request a paper survey by calling 616-738-4852
  •   Where We've Been

    Since the beginning of high-speed internet, Ottawa County has been involved in improving service and building infrastructure. The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners has actively supported enhanced broadband for residents and businesses for more than a decade. The County has had multiple successes with expanding broadband into previously underserved areas through collaborative public-private partnerships. Here’s a closer look:

    Expansion of Cellular and Data Coverage

    In the late 2000s, the County partnered with Sprint (now part of T-Mobile) to upgrade and expand its wireless broadband network. In exchange for Sprint investing $1 million to enhance and expand high-speed wireless service to the County’s rural areas, local officials, whenever possible, assisted with expediting permitting, zoning approvals, and site assessments needed to upgrade and expand the existing wireless network.

    Eventually, the County worked with Verizon and AT&T to fill coverage gaps by constructing cell towers in underserved areas. Cellular and data coverage in more rural parts of the County improved significantly.

    Mobile Broadband At Home or Away - Sprint


    Hotspot Device Lending Initiative

    Mobile hotspot kit

    Beginning in 2018, the County partnered with three area libraries to initiate a Mobile Hotspot Device Lending Initiative. This program allows residents to check out the portable devices from their local library for on-the-go access. With the support of this Department, eventually all nine Ottawa County libraries received a Library of Michigan Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to expand the program, making the devices available for loan to the county’s more than 283,000 residents. The program has been a success. During the first year (October 2019-October 2020) two libraries showed their devices were circulated 479 times!



    Connect Michigan Report

    In 2018, in an attempt to better understand regional challenges, over a dozen counties in West Michigan – including Ottawa – partnered with ConnectMichigan, a nonprofit working to expand broadband.

    A community technology assessment was performed to identify deficiencies and opportunities for improving local broadband access to advance economic, social, and educational opportunities for families, businesses, and community institutions.

    A comprehensive Community Technology Action Plan was created. Unfortunately, the results of that effort did not provide the level of granularity needed to thoroughly and accurately understand the county’s true broadband landscape. These issues are further explained below under “Continued Issues”

    Cover of the Community Technology Action Plan
  •   Continued Issues

    Although the County has taken an active role in improving high-speed internet access, these efforts alone haven’t solved the problems we face.

    Consider:

    Community Technology Action Plan Held Back by Inaccurate Data

    Map of broadband coverage across the county

    The FCC maintains maps that illustrate broadband coverage across the Country based on Census blocks. Census blocks vary widely in size based on population density. For example, a Census block in the city of Holland can be dramatically smaller than a block in a less densely populated township. As the map at left shows, if one home in a Census block has access, FCC maps represent that the whole block has access, skewing the data. Because the Action Plan was based on Census block data, it failed to drill down far enough to truly determine any gaps in connectivity. Additionally, inaccurate FCC maps have delayed and in some cases disqualified the County from qualifying for grants to plug these gaps in service.



    Wireless Internet is not always practical

    Data caps and limited upload/download speeds cannot consistently provide the average consumer the needed capacity to work and learn remotely. Library mobile hotspots are a boon to many, but cannot be a permanent solution. The FCC describes broadband as any service that provides 25 megabits per second downloads and 3 megabits per second uploads. This standard hasn’t been updated since 2015. The minimum recommended standard are downloads of 100 mbps and uploads of 25 mbps. The mobile hotspots available from Ottawa County libraries use 4G/LTE technology, which, according to a 2019 report from Ookla, an international mobile and broadband network researcher, averages 38 mbps download speed and 9.5 mbps upload speed, far short of the accepted minimum standards mentioned above.

    However, while wireless as a last mile solution (e.g. wireless service into homes) is not always practical, as wireless technology improves and infrastructure solutions are developed to expand reliable broadband speeds to unserved rural areas, wireless can offer advantages when combined with other technologies to cost-effectively extend services. Ottawa County’s evolving infrastructure solution to extend broadband countywide will likely involve the use of wireless for local infrastructure needs as necessary and practical.

    Hand holding a phone that is cannot connect to the internet


    Satellite Internet is Expensive and Erratic

    Satellites circling the globe

    Satellite internet service is available from cellular and cable providers but is expensive. For example, 56% percent of library mobile hotspot users surveyed by this Department in 2020 said they didn’t have internet service at home because it is ‘too expensive.’ Prices for conventional satellite internet in this area run at least $15 per month more than DSL and broadband services, with download speeds around 50 mbps slower.

    Additionally, inclement weather and heavy foliage can easily interfere with satellite signals.

    But what about Starlink? High-tech Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite wireless service are being invested in and tested by tech giants like Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, but are years away from being affordable for regular use for the average citizen. Because powerful wireless service is cost-prohibitive, high-speed access needs to be wired.

  •   The Digital Inclusion Strategy

    Because of the inaccurate data, national providers, state and federal regulators are under the mistaken impression that reliable, high-speed broadband service is consistently available and reliable in all corners of the County. Our citizens tell us otherwise. For several years, through our comment form at the bottom of this web page as well as through other sources, the public has had the opportunity to report difficulties with high-speed internet to this Department. A countless number of residents have reported they either don’t have access, their access is unreliable, or is too expensive.

    In light of these continued reports and the static efforts of private-sector providers to address our county’s gaps in coverage, the County and its strategic stakeholders are moving aggressively to improve and expand broadband service in order to achieve universal, affordable access for all.


    A FOUR-PHASE PLAN

    The intended purpose of the Digital Inclusion Strategy is to ensure all area residents and communities have access to affordable and reliable broadband internet service, necessary equipment, and digital literacy training.

    This four-phased plan includes ...

    Digital Inclusion logo

    PHASE I

    DATA COLLECTION

    Collect the necessary data to inform our decision-making to effectively address gaps in access, affordability, and digital literacy.

    Primary objectives
    • Refine broadband-availability maps
    • Improve understanding of how residents use broadband and what they need
    • Improve understanding of barriers to broadband access by both connected users and those currently without high-speed internet
    Survey results

    PHASE II

    ANALYSIS

    By utilizing data from Phase I, develop a robust plan defining the actions necessary to address gaps in access, affordability, and digital literacy throughout the County.

    Primary Objectives
    • Prepare broadband infrastructure plans that address physical access issues
    • Develop initiatives that address cost and equipment problems preventing residents from accessing broadband
    • Develop digital literacy public outreach and education initiatives for residents
    • Develop strategies to overcome regulatory hurdles inhibiting the expansion of reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure
    Analyzing data

    PHASE III

    INTERMEDIARY SOLUTIONS DEPLOYMENT

    Put into motion Phase II plans to ensure Ottawa County deploys the infrastructure and support programming necessary to achieve universal, affordable broadband access for everyone.

    Primary Objectives
    • Through a public-private partnership, build broadband infrastructure to connect areas of County lacking reliable and affordable high-speed internet
    • Connect with local partners to help subsidize, as needed, the cost of broadband access for those unable to afford it
    • Deploy digital literacy programs
    Deploying solutions

    PHASE IV

    Ongoing Transformation

    Monitor and address ongoing and evolving needs among residents and businesses to ensure they have access to the broadband infrastructure needed to compete today and tomorrow.

    Primary Objectives
    • Survey/evaluate the public at least every three years to gauge broadband use and anticipate future needs
    • Continue developing solutions to ensure County offers the most robust infrastructure and programming needed for residents and business to thrive into the future
    Making progress as we continue forward

    Current Partners


    Data Collection Steering Committee Members

    Phase I Funding Partners


    Taking Action

    Detailed Mapping

    As part of Phase I of the Digital Inclusion Strategy, Ottawa County has solicited proposals from experienced vendors to develop a method for comprehensive data collection and analysis to determine current status and future needs of broadband service. Once data is collected and residents are surveyed, detailed and accurate maps will be created. With better, accurate data and maps, we can then move to Phase 2 of the Strategy.

    Map of Ottawa county
  •   Resources
    • Everyoneon.org
      Use this website to find low-cost internet and affordable computers in your area.
    • 21st Century Infrastructure Commission
      In March 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder created the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission. The Commission developed a list of 110 solutions to improve Michigan’s infrastructure and enhance the quality of life for all Michiganders.
    • Speed Test
      Test the speed and performance of your internet connection here.
  •   Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

    Are you struggling to afford high-speed internet access? The FCC has launched a new program to help households afford broadband internet service during the pandemic.

    Eligible households can sign up May 12, 2021, to receive discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.

    Beginning on May 12 households can apply in three ways:

    1. Contact a participating broadband provider to learn about their application process.
    2. Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
    3. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to:

      Emergency Broadband Support Center
      P.O. Box 7081
      London, KY 40742

    For more information on program eligibility requirements, visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

    Find Participating Providers

    Click here to view a list of Michigan broadband providers that are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The FCC reports the list will be continuously updated as more providers join the program.

  •   What is Broadband?
    What is Broadband?