Source: Sherman Publications

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High-speed net access finally coming to Addison

by CJ Carnacchio

September 07, 2011

Downtown Oxford isn't the only place around here on track to get high-speed wireless internet service.

Thanks to a county-owned tower located at Haven and Noble roads, residents of Addison Township and the Village of Leonard will soon have access to this service although they will have to pay for it.

"We were awarded (federal) stimulus dollars, a loan/grant combination, to provide high-speed internet to people who don't currently have options for it," explained Dave Simmet, vice president of operations for Air Advantage, a company based in Frankenmuth. "For instance, in Addison Township and the Leonard area, we get calls from people everyday asking us when we're going to be live there because they don't have the ability to go to Comcast or AT&T and get internet service. They're looking for an internet service provider to come in there and provide that service."

It should be noted that most of Leonard's approximately 130 homes have been eligible for AT&T's U-verse line of products, which includes high-speed internet, since 2009.

Air Advantage, which provides high-speed wireless internet service to Michigan's thumb area, is in the process of expanding its competitively-priced broadband services to northern and western Oakland County.

If everything goes well, Simmet said hopefully, the "tower would be live" by the end of this week. "We've got all the equipment hung in that tower," he explained. "I think we're waiting on final inspection. We're waiting on DTE (Energy) to come out and put a meter in. Once that happens, we'll be ready to start broadcasting from that tower."

Simmet indicated it's a "win-win" for Air Advantage and the people of Addison and Leonard. "We're gaining customers, but we're also providing a very valuable service to those individuals that can't get internet any other way," he said. "If you've got a kid in high school or you're doing on-line courses for college, you have to have a high-speed internet connection."

Simmet noted he received two phone calls last week from people "wondering when we're going to be in their area" because their kids need the service for school work.

"I've had people calling me for six months," said Addison Supervisor Bruce Pearson. "Everybody is hoping that it's going to reach them."

The county tower in Addison should enable Air Advantage to "cover a good deal" of the township and village.

In fact, the company conducted a study and Simmet said, "We know our signal will touch at least 900 households."

"If it reached that many, that would be terrific," Pearson said. "This is going to be the only way to reach those people out in the (low-density) rural areas."

Addison Township, including Leonard, has a total of 2,314 households.

Simmet noted "there's no real scientific, hard-and-fast rule of how much area (a tower) will cover."

"It depends on the topography. It depends on the trees. It depends on the hills. It can depend on buildings," he explained. "As a general rule, we say that a tower can cover an area anywhere up to 3-5 miles. So, if you just draw a circle of 3-5 miles around a tower, you may or may not be able to give somebody a signal from there.

"The reason this is so difficult is that we have some customers that are 10-12 miles away from a tower and we give them service. And we have other customers that might be within 2 miles, but we can't reach them. What it typically comes down to is their house is covered with trees and if your house is covered with trees, our signal might be passing above the trees, but we can't penetrate the trees to get to your household."

In Addison, Simmet said, "We know we get a signal at approximately 900 households. That number could obviously be higher."

Air Advantage is also seeking access to a privately-owned tower in Oxford, located about 3 miles north of the village, which will enable the company to provide high-speed internet service to paying customers living in the northern township.

"The thing that's interesting about Addison and Oxford is you have some of these, what I would call, fairly remote areas where people have gone out and built these amazing, big houses, but they're nowhere near anywhere they can get internet."