By Jessica Mathews /

Genoa Township officials are exploring the possibility of getting broadband though a new internet service provider.

At a recent special meeting, Manager Mike Archinal delivered a report on the prospect. He noted for many years the township has received calls about the lack of broadband in several parts of their community but the pandemic really brought it to a head. Archinal said for a long time the attitude has been that people choose to live in the sticks, which comes with bad broadband, but it has really become a necessity in the modern world like water, sewer, gas and electric service.

Archinal said they’ve worked with Comcast over the years in trying to extend service. He says the township’s franchise agreement requires so many units per mile to put the service in and Comcast has given various parameters for how they could do the build-out but really they aren’t interested in extending service because it’s not lucrative enough.

The township’s franchise agreement is not exclusive, thus Archinal has been in discussions with a group called MISignal, which is based out of the City of Howell. He says the company needs a critical mass of units within a neighborhood before it pays for them to run their cable. Once they do run cable in a neighborhood, Archinal said about 40% will switch over because everyone is so “thrilled” with Comcast. He noted they’re far cheaper than Comcast and it is a legitimate company.

Archinal said staff has had meetings with the company and they’re starting to talk about agreements and how it could be done but there are some sticking points still being investigated, which includes who owns the cable. He noted if the township owns it, means the township is the internet service provider and would need to jump through hoops. If the company owns it, then the township could avoid a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Archinal says another issue is the township spending on a private entity’s infrastructure so that’s being investigated and they’ve talked with several other communities.

Archinal said it’s really about giving choice to people because they’re kind of trapped right now and the benefits are not just serving the underserved areas but also keeping money within the community. He said instead of shipping it to Pittsburgh where Comcast is located, it’s a local company and residents would save money because their bills would go down significantly. Additionally through a franchise agreement, a percentage of the company’s revenue would be coming back to the township.

Archinal said he’ll be reporting back to the board but it’s a big deal and something staff will be spending quite a bit of time on.