Morenci mayor Keith Pennington is hoping that federal money dedicated for bringing high speed internet service to rural areas might benefit Morenci.
Pennington and city council member Joe Varga spoke to Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce members last week about a $41.6 million project that will link Monroe and Hillsdale with a fiber optic cable.
The line will pass through Adrian, Varga said, and serve the colleges and community colleges between Monroe and Hillsdale. Spurs off the main line will also connect with several municipal offices.
The line is being built by Merit Network of Ann Arbor along with four internet providers, including Adrian-based TC3net.
Instead of passing through copper lines, data moves much faster through the fiber optic cable, Pennington said. Enormous amounts of data flow are possible, he said, and security improves.
The main east/west line will be largely funded through a $33 million federal grant and Pennington thinks funding opportunities may exist to bring a line south into Morenci.
A 13-mile line to the city’s industrial park would cost $330,000, Pennington said, and the city wouldn’t be able to tackle the cost of the project on its own.
Chamber of Commerce president Brad Frederick said that it’s good to be ahead of the curve and investigate the possibility before the main line is laid. The cost would increase significantly if the spur were created later.
Pennington said that fiber optics could lead to many labor-saving moves for city workers, such as remote water meter readings.
“There are probably more benefits than we can think of,” he said.
Varga said he’s also spoken to TC3net about bringing WiFi internet to the city, possibly through an antenna. WiFi zones could be created for public use, such as in a spot downtown or in a park.
“We don’t know what businesses are doing now,” Pennington said. “Would it be a benefit to businesses to offer this or is it just a service that a modern community offers to visitors?”
Varga said he’s been told that WiFi availability is like a magnet for communities.
Chamber members voted to provide a letter of support for city council’s efforts to attract high speed internet service.