The Lake County Fiber Network project is an initiative to connect homes and businesses (schools, hospitals, everyone) in Lake County with a fiber optic cable to provide telephone, high-speed internet and television services.
The federal stimulus funding actually stimulated the effort in Lake County. Local providers were talking about it taking 10-15 years to build out a fiber network. So the county decided to take action. They engaged each local unit of government in Lake County to support them in an effort to apply for the BIP for low interest loans and grants.
The County realized that while they want and need the service; they didn’t want to be the actual providers. So, they will not operate the network; they wanted contract with a third party to operate the network. They had talked with providers but again found out that fiber was not in their short or midterm strategic plans. This point was highlighted at a Two Harbor City Council meeting in which a Frontier representative said that if the project went through he would give away service for free for two years.
Lake County will be working with National Public Broadband, Inc., NPB a non-profit company comprised of a team of people who have already built and operated publicly-owned networks. NBP started with a market study that indicated that the market is there to provide service. Specifically,
- People want faster Internet and higher quality communications. Recognition that fiber is critical infrastructure.
- People want service close to home and they want to be able to talk to someone pretty local to get their issues resolved.
- People want less expensive connectivity for communications.
Lake County applied for ARRA stimulus funding; they requested $11,050,770 in grants and $22,436,409 in loans. Here’s the summary from the application:
The Project will be the first rural county fiber network in the U.S. to fully serve every home and institution that is currently served by wired telephone or electrical service. The advanced services offered will be priced lower than the very limited services currently available. The Project will be a public-private partnership between Lake County and National Public Broadband, a non-profit org.
If funding is achieved as expected in 2009, construction could begin in 2010 with full scale operation available in 2011.
Chris Swanson has been very active through the process and was kind enough to share some simple advice for communities who are considering their broadband future:
Communities need to figure out creative ways to get high end telecommunications infrastructure into their communities for the delivery of Internet to each home and business. Otherwise like the railroad, highways or electricity if it passes you town and doesn’t stop it will leave you behind.