Over 30 community leaders from economic development, local government, education, business and health care met yesterday in Dawson, MN to begin a discussion on broadband deployment and use. Lac qui Parle County is in western Minnesota on the South Dakota border. The county’s communities range in size from just under 2,000 people down to towns with fewer than 100 residents. In the countryside, the farms can be large and the residents widely scattered. I was pleased to see several county commissioners and elected officials at the meeting. The group really understood the need to work on this topic at the county and regional level, rather than focus at the city level.
Existing Internet providers were well represented, including Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative, Frontier Communications, Farmers Cooperative Association and MVTV. Representing Blandin Foundation through Community Broadband Resources, I provided some background information on broadband technologies and the issues that rural communities are facing.
We talked extensively about the mix of existing service providers within the county and learned about some planned improvements. For example, Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative will have FTTP to every subscriber in its service area by the end of 2009. Frontier Communications is upgrading their backbone pipe into the region which will enable more capacity to the end-customers. They are also beginning to extend DSL services into the more rural parts of their exchange. The wireless providers talked about their ability to reach into the countryside.
People understood that this will require an incremental approach. Two first step needs emerged from the discussion – better understanding of what is available where and the need to education consumers, especially businesses, about the power of broadband and broadband applications. I look forward to meeting again with this motivated community.