MN Broadband Fund Award: A closer look at Big Stone County

OBD fund graphicAlmost $20 million in state grants have gone to 17 communities in Minnesota to expand broadband and make the case to legislators (and the general public) that such investments are wise and have a valuable Return on Investment. I wanted to delve into each project a bit to help us follow the money as it gets deployed. (See other award posts.)

Federated Telephone Cooperative, Big Stone County. Awarded $3.92 million to construct broadband infrastructure that will make service available to 1,072 unserved premises. The full project cost is $7.92 million; the remaining $4 million (51 percent) in matching funds will be raised through tax abatement bonds, with the county loaning the bond proceeds to Federated. This project will cover the north half of Big Stone County, as well as the western tract that runs from south to north surrounding the city of Ortonville. The area will include the communities of Barry, Beardsley and Johnson along with the rural parts of western and northern Big Stone County.

Community and Economic Development Impact: In addition to connecting local businesses and providing local online learning opportunities, 45 percent of the new service drops are farming operations that now can make use of high-tech agricultural and agribusiness applications.

Big Stone was one of the original MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) cohort group as part of the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission). UMVRDC worked on a wide range of projects – one of the highlights was an effort in Ortonville to get local businesses online. It took a while to build interest in the community but once the project got going they had a hard time keeping up with demand!

Big Stone’s neighbor Lac qui Parle County has previously worked with Federated on a FTTH network with ARRA funding. Experience with LqP should make the process in Big Stone even smoother.

And just to help track progress, here are some recent stats on Benton County:

On broadband (Connect MN final stats from 2014):

  • Household Density: 4.3
  • Number of Households: 2,293
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 72.37%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 72.37%

Census quick facts (from 2013):

  • Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2009-2013:  $91,300
  • Per capita money income in past 12 months (2013 dollars), 2009-2013:  $26,019
  • Persons below poverty level, percent, 2009-2013:  12.4%
  • Private nonfarm establishments, 2012:  192
  • Private nonfarm employment, 2012:  1,888

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