Last night the Lake County Board of Commissioners met to discuss the Lake County Fiber project. (As you may recall Lake County received almost $70 million for a FTTH project. More recently, the have run into issues with some of the project partners.) According to the Lake County News Chronicle the Board made some big decisions last night…
Lake County could not reach agreement on a permanent contract with National Public Broadband, its consultant firm for nearly two years. The two sides battled for nearly two months and couldn’t resolve differences on bonus payments and the county’s option to fire NPB without cause and without penalty. The negotiations had bogged down work on the actual project, Commissioner Paul Bergman said, and the board wanted a fresh start.
The project is being funded by federal money approved in September and handled by the Rural Utilities Service branch of the Department of Agriculture.
Board members said it was the Rural Utilities Service that forced its hand in making changes in the approach to the fiber project, including the third surprise resolution passed by the County Board on Tuesday — authorization to use $3.5 million in public money for the project.
The decision to use public funding had to have been difficult, given they had been saying that the project would not require public financing. But it sounds as if the RUS required it. I think the public funding will help the project – there’s nothing like a little skin in the game to increase interest and motivation. Christopher Mitchell from Institute for Local Self Reliance seems to agree…
The County had long maintained that no public money would be used. However, most people will likely not care as long as the project keeps its promise to deliver fast, reliable, and affordable broadband to the community. This is the need — and people need to stay focused on achieving this goal.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. The ARRA funding went to the county. So the project is still on, they are just looking to reshuffle the deck a little. Perhaps they will get a hand that better suits them in the next few weeks. This project along with fiber being in stalled in the area by Arrowhead Electric, as well as Duluth’s bid for the Google Gig and Cook County’s ongoing use of technology could really be a game changer for NE Minnesota. So I hope that Lake County will find a solution that works.