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Beaver Island Broadband
Wireless Internet

Beaver Island Broadband Inc. wireless Internet plan turned down in Round 1

March 1, 2010

The news of the USDA turning down our application for stimulus money for high-speed wireless internet implementation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was delivered.

On 1-25 it was determined that we did not meet the definition of being “unserved” and so Beaver Island Broadband Inc. would not be funded in round 1.

Other funding for our project might be available through the Department of Commerce’s NTIA’s (National Telecommunication Information Administration) BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program). The application process is complicated; an attempt will be made to assess whether it would be worth the effort and expense to apply.

 

Beaver Island Broadband Inc. applies for stimulus funds for Island Internet

August 10, 2009

With letters of support from local organizations, businesses, and townships, and many hours of work, the Island has applied for stimulus money to provide broadband coverage to everyone and to provide redundancy and competition in the marketplace. It is felt this will be an important part of the Island's future economic stability and it's hoped that despite our small size and remote location, the application will hit the target on center and get support from those making the decisions. Two outages of the Island's current Internet system which everyone within range has come to rely on day and night now confirm the benefit broadband stimulus could bring to the Island. Transworld, the only dialup provider also has announced service will be terminated to the Island in December since they can't offer a product that holds a candle to DSL, while also having an outage while DSL was down thus providing no redundancy even now.

 

Cherry Capital Connection presents Wireless Option at Peaine Township Hall

May 1, 2009

On April 28, 2009 another high-speed Internet option was described by Cherry Capital Connections’ CEO Tim Maylone to an informal group of 14 Beaver Islanders at the Peaine Hall. Maylone’s company, based in Elk Rapids, has been linking high-speed coverage in northwest lower Michigan during its eight years of operation. He has had his eye on Beaver Island for over five years as part of his overall network.

He spent the morning looking at obstacles presented by our geography on an Island tour given by Kevin Boyle and Bill McDonough. Afterwards he spoke with the group about the feasibility of his plan, which involves using our 180' towers and several “repeaters” to transform selected homes (perhaps 15) into rebroadcasting stations. He would connect to the mainland at two points (the north end to Good Hart; the south end to the St. Mary’s cement plant in Charlevoix) to provide redundancy.

He could provide up to 3M/3M high-speed Internet service to almost everyone on Beaver Island—plus SIP-based VoIP and, 1½ - 2 years later, TV, at a monthly cost and with download speeds comparing favorably with the current TDS DSL service and noticably higher upload speeds (6x greater)—except DSL is connected for free whereas the wireless system would require the installation of antennas at a cost of ~$450. (Perhaps some portion of this could be subsidized by other funding.)

CCC is part of an effort to bring high-speed internet to 19 northern lower Michigan counties through a $40,000,000 grant, and if this happens it will set up here and hope for at least 30 customers (his goal is 200) to justify its effort. If this mega-grant does not happen, three numbers were put forth: $20,000; $125,000; and ~$40,000. CCC would begin work on “lighting up” the Island immediately if $125,000 appeared (completing installation might take four months).

Part of the needed $125,000 is the $20,000 mentioned, the cost of an engineering survey, which would take a month to identify whatever areas can’t be reached with repeaters; from his past experience, Tim Maylone thought there would be a few problem areas, and an additional $40,000 would be required to implement special strategies to reach every single household. Thus for about $165,000 every location here could have broadband service.

The mega-grant won't be determined for some time. If we want to jumpstart the process we could provide the needed funds ourselves, either through a grant to the Townships, a loan to the Townships, or private investment. With the current economy, CCC would not invest this themselves. On Mackinac Island their provision of profitable service to one major commercial facility allowed them to reinvest in providing connectivity to the rest of the Island, but there is not currently such an opportunity for them on Beaver.

 

Wireless Disappointment for South-Enders - Central Solutions decides to end wireless operations on Beaver Island

August 16, 2008

The three 180' towers have been erect for a few months now and are quite towering when viewed from the water soaring high over the Island, but unfortunately today we received a letter in the mail stating that Central Solutions Inc. who have been providing wireless broadband in the town of St. James for a year now would not be equipping the towers for expanded coverage yet this summer as expected, but instead would be discontinuing residentail wireless broadband service to the Island.

Luckily for those on the north end of the Island (St. James, the Port St. James area including Donegal Bay, Carlisle Road, Barney’s Lake Road North from ~27996 to Four Corners, King’s Highway, Paid een Og’s Road, and East Side Drive from ~31080 north to Four Corners including roads originating from East Side Drive between these points), TDS stepped up to the plate this spring and hit a home run with wonderful DSL service that has been truly outstanding, but for south-enders this probably means no low-latency broadband Internet connectivity until 2009.

On the horizon for south enders:

  1. It's possible in 2009 TDS will invest even further in the Island to expand their DSL infrastructure further south from the CO as Stage 2 of their DSL deployment -- it definitely doesn't hurt to express your interest to them (realizing that the further from town the longer the return on their investment will be for them) as the DSL service on the northern half of the Island is simply execllent!

  2. It's possible a cellular carrier could equip the towers with not only voice but also with EVDO (Alltel, Sprint, Verizon) or 3G (ATT) data service providing something similar in speed to the conservative WISP system Central Solutions was providing near town. A cellular carrier would also provide added flexibility similar to the fully mobile system Central Solutions first envisioned, but I suspect with tighter limits on service and less flexibility to service a particular customer's unique needs since most major cell providers are really intending cellular data plans to serve as secondary vs. primary Internet connectivity on the mainland.

  3. There are a lot more WIFI hotspots now available in St. James: The Library as always, as well as the new Community Center, Stoney Acre/Donegal Danny's, Island Airways Terminals, the Emerald Isle Hotel for guests, the porch of Beaver Island Realty, soon the Harbour Market next to the Shamrock, etc.

  4. And as a fallback, there's Wildblue as well as HughesNet Spaceway satellite; though these options are noticably laggy compared to terrestrial broadband, at least they're better than dialup and at least we have a great person on-Island now who is highly skilled and willing to install and help in case of alignment problems which is a big step forward from the early days when getting a qualitifed installer over to the Island was quite difficult and expensive.

Central Solutions Inc August 11 2008

 

Summer News

June 14, 2008

No news to report regarding equipping the three new towers for out-of-town Central Solutions wireless Internet. All three towers have been up in the sky since the end of April along with their two-door equipment buildings on the ground at each site, but as of mid-June, the towers are not yet equipped for either wireless broadband or cellular service as we enter the summer season.

If you're within the following areas, fast DSL service has been available since March 15, 2008 and is great and highly recommended - it's amazingly fast compared to anything we've ever had on Beaver Island!

  • St. James, the Port St. James area including Donegal Bay,
  • Carlisle Road,
  • Barney’s Lake Road North from ~27996 to Four Corners,
  • King’s Highway,
  • Paid een Og’s Road, and
  • East Side Drive from ~31080 north to Four Corners (including roads originating from East Side Drive between these points.)

If you're further south and beyond the reach of DSL, keep watching the sky for hopeful provisioning of these towers this summer.
(DSL is not expected to expand further until 2009 at the soonest)

Even though we have been very very happy with TDS DSL, and wouldn't trade it for the world now that we have had it for a few months, it would be interesting to see these towers also provide WISP coverage for added redundancy, the symmetrical higher upload speed (though slower download speed) plans for those who upload large files working from the Island, and to have the competition in the marketplace to push further improvements in the years to come.

Storm Season Impact

May 27, 2008

Central Solutions' T1 backhaul suffered a failure that resulted in connectivity loss from Saturday May 24th to Tuesday May 27th. It's now back up and running fine again.

High Steel on Beaver Island

April 29, 2008

Reprinted from the May 2008 Beacon

On April 28th and 29th the stumps to the three Island towers, which had been set just before the Island was buffeted by snow last fall, were extended high into the air.

Five months ago the assembly was called off because the million-dollar crane truck was afraid of coming over on a barge and getting trapped here for the winter. But the barge, pulled by the Cisco and the American Girl, brought it in, an imposing machine with seven telescoping 40’ sections. It got right to work, lifting the first of three preformed concrete utility buildings onto a Beaver Gems’ flatbed and following it to its site to set it on its foundation.

Then the truck put out its four stabilizing legs and hydraulically lifted itself off the ground. Once the crane was secure, it extended four of its boom sections for the first 60’ stage of the tower–which, with the 40’ base, would give the tower a 100’ height.
The tower assemblers, John Timmer and his high-stepping helper, climbed up the steel studs on the base’s poles, carrying tools and bolts in a bucket. As the two nimble men strapped themselves into place the crane operator began lifting the first section, using three reinforced fabric straps. The crane is capable of reaching 300’ in height and lifting 86,000 pounds, so this was easy.

Once the section was held vertically in the air a foot above the base, the two men had to spin it into position and bolt its pole plates to the matching ones atop the base. It was a chilly morning, just above freezing, and they were warmly dressed, but for precision work they had to remove their gloves.

Once the two pieces were bolted together, one of the men shimmied up the diagonal bracing to detach the crane, carefully using a pair of safety straps. There was a time when a man could ride up or down with the crane, on its hook or on a section of steel, but not anymore.

Once the men were back on the ground they began assembling the equipment platforms almost at the top of the final section, an 80’ triangular truss lying horizontally on wooden blocks on the ground, the tower’s taper ending at its midpoint. Then it was the same as before: both men scrambling up to their 100’ perches as the crane lifted the final piece into place, with them revolving it until it was in the perfect position for bolting down.

When that was done, one of them had to climb the ladder bolted to the side all the way up to the 180’ mark to unstrap the crane. That didn’t bother John, the company president, who had been on 1,500’ towers. He learned his trade in the air force, although he was not allowed to wear a chute.

It was one after another until all three E. W. Marine towers were up. The next day the crane headed back to the mainland on the barge, and the tower climbers set about lifting the lower ladder sections into place with a rope hoist and bolting them on.
It was not the kind of job many people would dare undertake, but somebody had to do it. And this crew did not mind, joking and laughing high above.

It's up!

April 28, 2008

The tower on the Font Lake side of Donegal Bay Road is now standing and the tower on the East Side Drive at the Fire Station should be off the ground tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly these were put up now that spring is here.

But don't tell the Sloptown Road Osprey that there's a new place to roost until we get over admiring how high-tech the new tower looks.

We may have liftoff

April 27, 2008

A large crane truck, a smaller crane truck, and three telco-style equipment buildings are now on the Beaver Island dock. Presumably this crane will lift the towers' upper sections off the ground this week!



Current Status

April 1, 2008

Current Beaver Island broadband statusThe last news we heard directly from Central Solutions was on November 1st, 2007, but despite not hearing a thing from them over the winter, we are confident they are still on track and a few customers we know who have the service in town since last summer say they are quite pleased.

In the meantime, if you're within range of DSL, it also provides a great very fast and reliable new option that we've been really enjoying this winter and is available now well into Peaine Township!

Hopefully once the ice is clear there will be some new wireless news as well -- competition is very good for the customer, and those who can't get DSL will be very happy when the towers hopefully provide coverage Island-wide. As spring draws near after a long winter, it should be an exciting year for the Information age on Beaver Island. We never dreamed that the Island would have two amazing solutions in 2008, at long last.

 

Towers wait until spring to be lifted

March 3, 2008

The crane needed to lift the upper two portions of each 180' tower and set them on their bases could not be brought to the Island before the lake froze over due to a combination of early harsh winter weather this year and delayed start because of the lenghtly zoning process, so the towers wait 1/3 erected until the spring when a large crane can be brought over by barge. The Townships are also working with the tower owner and the township attorney to finalize the lease agreements for the tower sites at the East Side Fire Hall in Peaine and near the campground/septic mount in St. James where the tower components currently sit.


Update on Towers

Reprinted from the February 2008 Beacon

We would like to clarify that E.W. Marine, Inc. owns the three towers being erected on Beaver Island. We are providing tower space to Central Solutions. The erection, completion and wireless is planned for Spring 2008.

These towers are capable of carrying cell phone antennas. We feel that the local cell phone customers should contact their cell phone carriers about the available tower space; this would improve cell phone operation on the Island. E. W. Marine, Inc. has also contacted the cell phone carriers but we feel it is going to take a customer “push” to get them interested.

—E W Marine

Internet Towers now partially erected on Island

December 25, 2007

Central Solutions' Internet towers are now partially erected on the Island. Show at the top of this page is the tower at the East Side Fire Hall with the first of three sections in the air, and the other two upper sections assembled on the ground to the left.

Reprinted from the December 2007 Beacon

Pictured are the concrete footings for the broadband Internet towers and equipment buildings at both the East Side Fire Station and the Donegal Bay Road Township property. The steel for three 180’ towers (the third is at Greene’s Lake) arrived on the barge
on November 16th. The construction schedule depends on the weather.

 

Central Solutions' Broadband Towers arrive on Island

November 17, 2007

The barge has now arrived with three 180' towers on semi trailers. Weather will play a role as the Island got its first dusting of snow yesterday signaling the arrival of winter soon, but things are looking good. After all the talk of broadband reaching beyond the pavement these many years, it's wonderful that the steel has finally arrived to get this off the ground at last. Kudos to all involved.


Zoning Changes needed for 180' tower construction now approved

November 14, 2007

At their respective November Township Board Meetings, both Peaine and St. James townships have now re-approved the previously approved zoning ordinance admendments now that they have also gone through the Charlevoix County level. Construction of the three 180' broadband Internet towers may now proceed now that zoning does not block them as it did previously.

Central Solutions is moving forward with plans to offer high-speed service to the entire Island.

November 1, 2007

Over the next few months, tower construction will begin on three different sites by a private entity to help support the efforts of our project. Central Solutions will lease space on those towers to provide services to customers Island-wide.

In the coming months new plans for services will be available. Changes to pricing for service and equipment are being made due to economic factors and increased infrastructure costs.

Central Solutions has now added a toll-free number for customer support. We ask that you please use
1-866-331-2637 for communication to our office. The local number is still in effect; however, the office hours are changing due to the change of season.

The local office will only be staffed on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to noon until early spring. Current and future customers can use the toll-free number to receive support, sign-up for service, or ask billing questions.

We look forward in continuing to service the community of Beaver Island.

–Brian Tort

'News of the Net'

June 15, 2007

Existing zoning restrictions and the long, slow process necessary to update the zoning ordinance have stalled tower construction necessary to reach out of town. At this point, it appears it will take longer than mid-summer to update the zoning ordinance, so those out of town will have to wait a while longer for any low-latency broadband, possibly only until later this year, or possibly longer still (but while it can be frustrating at times, the slow rate of change is what we all love about the Island too!) Investment money is also still being sought which may or may not be necessary to complete the larger-area project, so it appears we are once again at "a crossroads." In-town however, progress continues along with glitches being worked out and the system getting better by the week. The library still offers a free broadband hotspot, but visitors should very much enjoy the larger full-town internet-access roaming area. And wherever you are, don't hesitate to call (517) 676-4787 or e-mail info@centralsolutions.biz to express your interest. At the bottom of the www.centralsolutions.biz homepage all those in or near town can also signup online!

 

Central Solutions, Inc. now signing up broadband customers, in town

May 1, 2007

From the May Beacon:

current Beaver Island wireless coverage area

As we go to print, anyone in town now has the option to sign up and receive broadband wireless service from Central Solutions, Inc.!

A wireless link connects the main office at the Eager Beaver on the Highway to the 40' tower (left) at the Deputy/DNR building on the harbor, from which point the signal is distributed to town. Anyone can also sign up for mobile wifi access in the new “whole town” hotspot with any wireless-capable notebook computer, though further testing as the trees leaf out and also on the water will lead to refinements in the month to come.

Currently, a T1 feeds the project; plans are getting underway to position a tower in the Greene’s Lake area which will be able to aim over the trees to reach the mainland. This will provide ample and economical bandwidth as the project expands and also service to customers, a major milestone for the Island as the first low-latency local broadband to reach out of town.

Call (517) 676-4787 or e-mail info@centralsolutions.biz to sign up.


Central Solutions, Inc. holds very positive town meeting

January 18, 2007

The joint township and public meeting with Central Solutions, Inc. was a very positive experience, with Brian Tort of NG Wireless and a representative from both Quality Independent Communications (QUIC), the contractor, and from Proxim Wireless, the equipment vendor, outlining the plan-to-date and their desire for this to be a strongly community-based project in order to get economic tower and radio placements and approvals to make it all happen. Brian explained that instead of going under the name NGWireless, he will now be operating the project under his 2-year old company Central Solutions, Inc. At this point they are looking to secure tower locations, community support, and funding and seek a 60% take rate to achieve an 18-month return on investment. Brian stressed that theirs will be a telco-grade network that "will work just as you expect your telephone to have a dialtone every time you pick it up." The initial promise of availability by April of 2007 has been pushed back to "before the snow falls this winter of 2007" for whole-Island coverage, but the project will start in phases to give them "the flexibility" to incrementally choose the best equipment and strategy for covering each area, provisionally starting again with town this winter/spring and then working around the Island down to the west side and around. An earlier report that NGWireless was looking at all line-of-sight was said to be incorrect: their equipment will be "near line of sight" (the current test signal from the Eager Beaver is reaching the 25 mph sign on the highway and almost to the golf course on the east side) and will also use a range of frequencies including 2.4 Ghz and 900 Mhz.

Provisional plans include:

Residential:
320/320 Kbps: $38.95 per month or $28.95/month with a 12-month contract.
512/512 Kbps: $48.95 per month or $38.95/month with a 12-month contract.
768/768 Kbps: $58.95 per month or $48.95/month with a 12-month contract.
1Mbps/1 Mbps: $88.95 per month or $78.95/month with a 12-month contract.
+ $180 or $15/month for 12 months for installation

Small / Home Office:
(4 IP devices or less)
512/512 Kbps: $69.95 per month or $63.60/month with a 12-month contract.
768/768 Kbps: $82.45 per month or $74.95/month with a 12-month contract.
1Mbps/1 Mbps: $104.95 per month or $95.40/month with a 12-month contract.
+ $210 or $17.50/month for 12 months for installation

Business:
(5 IP devices or more)
512/512 Kbps: $115.95 per month or $100.80/month with a 12-month contract.
768/768 Kbps: $140.95 per month or $122.60/month with a 12-month contract.
1Mbps/1 Mbps: $174.95 per month or $152.10/month with a 12-month contract.
+ $264 or $22/month for 12 months for installation

Plans also include roaming-only access for hot spots (e.g. the harbor -- the plans above also include a free roaming account for hotspot access points), pay as you go service for rental cottages, hotel guests, or boaters in the harbor, and dedicated Internet access at $400/month for a 768/768 Kbps dedicated plan or $800/month for a 1.5 / 1.5 Mbps plan (equivalent to a T1 and contracted bandwidth guaranteed to always be available, unlike shared plans where bandwidth may be somewhat less than advertised during peak usage times.)

A survey was distributed to gauge interest in this plan and for use funding it - please be sure to complete the survey or contact Brian Tort at 517.676.4787 if you did not get one to fill out.


Computer and Network Solutions / OnWeb90 Island site evaluations and planning continue

January 08, 2007

OnWeb90 again arrived on Beaver Island and spent January 6th and 7th continuing to survey Island sites including both easy clusters and those remote homes deep within the beautiful tall woods. OnWeb90 was very positive about meeting the challenge of delivering broadband to the most difficult-to-reach Island sites utilizing a combination of their unique NLOS radio design (which allows their system to cut through up to 1/4 mile of trees when necessary and also deliver speeds significantly greater than the competition) and creative site solutions (such as mounting a mast on the top of the tallest tree at a customer's location when required to greatly reduce cost, time, and visibility - "it may sound like it wouldn't work, but it does. We've done it before, and it will stand the test of time") They also evaluated the existing tower that they plan as their primary backhaul link to the mainland with a tower climb. OnWeb90 was very positive about delivering wireless broadband to the Island quickly and efficiently with a realistic-scale and very doable plan and an investment of their own money to do so.

Tentative pricing at this point will be:

Residential
$35.00 / month for 1.5 Mbps down/256 kbps up
$45.00 / month for 3.0 Mbps down/512 kbps up
$55.00 / month for 5.0 Mbps down/768 kbps up

Business (includes static public ip addresses and multiple e-mail accounts)
$125.00 / month for 1.5Mbps Symmetrical (Single T1)
$225.00 / month for 3.0Mbps Symmetrical (Two Bonded T1's)

Installation costs:
$100.00 for 2.4Ghz installs
$175.00 for 900 Mhz installs
These install fees can be spread out over a period of a contractual agreement for service.

Central Solutions, Inc. calls Joint Township Broadband Meeting on January 17th

January 07, 2007

Central Solutions, Inc. has requested a Joint Township Meeting on January 17th at 7:00 p.m. at the Peaine Township Hall (bad weather date: January 18th) to discuss their plan before both townships and to further gauge public needs.


Wireless Broadband Plans for Spring 2007

After visiting the Island in October, Hudsonville, MI OnWeb90 is planning to provide Beaver with wireless broadband Internet. Plans include 1500 kbps down/256 kbps up, 3000/512, and 5000/768 residential options, as well as 1.5 mbps/1.5 mbps and 3.0/3.0 commercial plans. “While keeping the pristine beauty of the Island intact, OnWeb90 is bringing them a complete Wireless network, including Voice-Over-IP service to the entire island” says Nick Welsheimer, www.onweb90.com

Mason, MI Central Solutions, Inc., directed by Brian Tort, also has expressed interest in providing wireless broadband for Beaver Island with a visit on November 15th and mailings to all box holders. With an Island connection, NGWirless, Inc. pledges “Internet access to benefit year-round residents and travelers to the Island, with service to be available by April 1, 2007,” according to www.centralsolutions.biz.

Previous Island Broadband News: Beaver Island Satellite Internet through WildBlue

Other Island Broadband News: TDS Beaver Island DSL Broadband Plans for 2008