Senator Schmit’s listening session in Park Rapids was attended by about 40 people. Attendees included community leaders, broadband providers and economic developers. Like many areas, it appears as if broadband access in Park Rapids is uneven. The city is well served. There were representatives from several broadband providers in the room – but the further outside of town, the less likely to have broadband. The east edge of Long Lake came up a lot – however all attending providers said they’d look into it so many things are looking bring in Long Lake. I noticed that several people in the room alluded to upgrading from dialup (sometimes to satellite) in the last year. And these are folks who clearly are interested in broadband – just couldn’t’ get access.
Park Rapids is surrounded by lakes and there was a lot of talk about getting lake associations involved in broadband discussions as a way to help give voice to those unserved areas. Here are some of the other items that came up…
- East edge of Long Lake – difficult to do economically for Arvig. So we’re looking at partnerships that would make it possible. ROI is a factor but Arvig is committed to the area.
- CentruryLink has invested in the area. More rural areas are difficult – especially when we have to go through DNR and dense trees. We would like to talk about Long Lake. These meetings are valuable in that it gives us a chance to hear from customers and potential customers.
- The sales tax exemption has been difficult for the broadband business case. There’s a benefit to infrastructure. The regulatory environment is difficult – especially when telecom, cable and wireless are all working with different rules – especially with advertising, quality of service and rates.
- Paul Bunyan serves parts of Hubbard County. When we upgrade we go FTTP.
- Consumers are going to see more competition. AT&T will start courting customers. They are looking at tower in the space. Fiber to the cell tower is a service that wired providers offer. It’s a growth area for telecommunications industry.
- Competition has pros and cons. It gets us covered but it also makes it difficult for any one provider to invest.
- Lake Associations are active and should be involved with broadband. About 50 percent of people living on lakes do not have broadband. Lakes represent 60 percent of property values. Our neighbors had dialup until last summer when Paul Bunyan came in. As an association, we use technology to contact people – we need people to be able to get email.
- The city is doing well with broadband but people around the lakes have trouble. We were about more than just Hubbard County too – neighboring counties need it too. The REA is a model that worked – we got electricity to every farm regardless of the finances of the individual farmers.
Regarding use and adoption
- Accommodations must be made for students who don’t have broadband at home. School will be 24/7 and if we don’t have that infrastructure we won’t be able to keep up. Cell access would allow kids to see (flipped) videos but there are data cap issues. And one kid without access can hold back a classroom. The new GED will be made available online only. That means students need to have access and be comfortable using a computer.
- Resorts need broadband. Weekend visitors need broadband . Retired folks are moving here. They need access. They are used to it; it’s part of their life. They would spend more time here if they had better access. And that’s a large part of the customer base for local businesses.
- “Broadband is the way people make new business. If they can’t get online here why would they come here? Same for second income earners.
- Affordability is an issue. We have good broadband and a middle schooler. I don’t know how families without access do it.
- Streaming on mobile wireless is better than satellite but it’s still pretty slow. We pay $330 for 3 phones and mobile hotspot. My kids need it for school. I need it for work. I can’t access the files I need from home. I can’t approve a search warrant if I can’t download it at 3 am and the police can’t wait until I can approve it at that rate.