Martin County Broadband Feasibility Study: steps to get to the top of the county ranking

Martin County recently shared their broadband feasibility study. The executive summary is quite pointed given the opportunity for the state broadband funds…

Martin County finds itself in the company of the 21 least-connected counties (out of 87) with less than 60% of households having a broadband option of at least 10 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up. …

Martin County is in a challenging position. The two largest cities – Fairmont and Sherburn, along with the community Granada and its surrounding rural area, are relatively well connected. However, the remaining rural areas and communities throughout the county in some cases have no access to any broadband options at all. The digital divide challenges any provider to build a business case for expanding service offerings in the rural areas.

Incumbent providers have plans to improve some areas of Martin County, but the specifics have not been determined. Since Frontier will be receiving CAF II funding for Martin County, one consideration is a partnership to provide them additional funding for upgrading their networks beyond CAF II requirements and plans. CAF II broadband speed requirements (10/1) are lesser than those of the state grant program.

Similarly, BEVCOMM, operating the Granada Exchange, has share its intent to apply for grant funds to more of less upgrade the remainder of its unserved areas. Any grant application that the County pursues ought to factor in these plans by BEVCOMM so as to coordinate  and avoid any overlapping plans.

As they say, there are in the company of 21 other counties. The feasibility study might be interesting to those counties too – a laundry list of what to consider in terms of even a back of the envelope plans to move forward.

The plan was shared with the community a few weeks ago. The Fairmont Sentinel covered the story…

Dale then provided a design model for the board, based on actual historical costs and design parameters from real-world projects that the company has been involved in previously, and then fitting that to the geography and demographics of Martin County. According to the model, approximately 54 percent of potential broadband customers reside within the city of Fairmont, while the next highest group of potential customers, around 5 and a half percent, live in Sherburn. All told, the model shows 9,658 potential broadband customers in the county.

“Frontier covers the most territory of current providers in the county,” said Dale. “All through this process, they’ve been saying that they would like to partner with the county, in terms of going after state grant dollars. We just had a meeting with Frontier, which receives federal funds, and are under obligations to do upgrades to their network throughout Minnesota.”

“They shared that they are planning to do projects in Martin County next year, in order to meet those goals. Their idea would be to piggyback those projects on top of state grant projects, in order to make the most of the dollars that would be spent here in Martin County.”



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