MN Broadband Fund Award: A closer look around Rock 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 awardee posts.)

Rock County Broadband Alliance (RCBA), FTTP project. Awarded $5 million to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service for approximately 1,085 underserved and 265 unserved locations in Rock County. The total project costs are $12.85 million; the remaining $7.85 million (61 percent local match) will be provided by Alliance Communications Cooperative as an equity infusion to RCBA, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance. Locations include 1,261 households and farms, approximately 68 businesses and 21 anchor institutions in the Jasper, Beaver Creek and Hardwick town and rural areas surrounding Luverne.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will bring FTTP service to all remaining unserved and underserved locations in Rock County, bringing to 93 percent coverage all businesses and households in the county. Education, energy efficiency, public safety and health care will improve, stimulating new jobs and economic growth. In particular in Rock County, access to health care is becoming more reliant on broadband infrastructure for both patients and health care professionals. For example, in remote rural locations, physicians who are on-call from their homes would be able to log into a patient’s chart and respond to a nurse’s request or see follow-up testing. Home monitoring capabilities help patients of all ages remain in their homes with high quality care, reducing health care costs and ensuring stronger community quality of life. Full county broadband coverage will provide significantly more reliable and faster communications for first responders and public safety officials.

Rock County is at the far southwest corner of the state. It sounds like they will be building around Luverne, which is the county seat. Mediacom reported upgrades to service in Luverne in August, 2013. That upgrade had a dramatic impact as Ground Level reported

In the opposite corner of the state, Rock County residents saw their numbers improve even more dramatically and for a different reason.

Last fall fewer than 20 percent of households got fast service. Today nearly 65 percent do. The reason? Service improvements in Luverne, the county seat, by cable TV provider Mediacom, according to William Hoffman, state program manager for Connect Minnesota. That’s the organization charged by the state with tracking broadband availability.

This new project will reach almost a third of the households in the county, which will definitely boost their coverage percentages as well.

Just to help track progress, here are some recent stats on Rock County:

On broadband (Connect MN final stats from 2014):

  • Household Density: 8.1
  • Number of Households: 3,918
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 66.29%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 66.29%

Census quick facts (from 2013):

  • Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2009-2013:  $119,300
  • Per capita money income in past 12 months (2013 dollars), 2009-2013:  $24,101
  • Persons below poverty level, percent, 2009-2013:  13.1%
  • Private nonfarm establishments, 2012:  261
  • Private nonfarm employment, 2012:  2,564
This entry was posted in MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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