Almost $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 awardee posts.)
Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area. Awarded $536,702 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 217 unserved premises in the Sauk Lake area, which is located primarily in Todd County (with some project area in rural Stearns County) just north of Sauk Centre. This is an unserved area where no wired broadband infrastructure is available. The full project cost is $1.07 million; the remaining $536,703 (50 percent) will be supplied by a private investment made by Arvig.
Community and Economic Development Impact: It is estimated that 20 percent of the premises to be served are either a business or running a home-based business. In addition, students will gain household Internet connectivity, enabling online homework and other distance learning applications in local school districts.
The Sauk Lake project doesn’t fit as nicely into my county focus as I’d like it to fit but I think I’ll look mostly at Todd County in terms of stats purely because of the practicality of digging deeper. Todd County has been looking at broadband for as long as I can remember – but in terms of recent history – in 2011, the county spent $20,000 on a feasibility study. In 2012, they held a community meeting to talk more about fiber. With only 26 percent broadband coverage, they clearly ran into hiccups with their momentum.
Just to help track progress, here are some recent stats on Todd County:
On broadband (Connect MN final stats from 2014):
- Household Density: 10
- Number of Households: 9.756
- Percentage serviced (without mobile): 25.69%
- Percentage serviced (with mobile): 25.69%
Census quick facts (from 2013):
- Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2009-2013: $130,000
- Per capita money income in past 12 months (2013 dollars), 2009-2013: $22,383
- Persons below poverty level, percent, 2009-2013: 15.7%
- Private nonfarm establishments, 2012: 557
- Private nonfarm employment, 2012: 5623