Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties are three rural counties that have decided to work together on better broadband. The counties share a similar mix of small communities and big farms on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. They also see a growing number of neighboring counties getting fiber to their homes and farms, including Lac qui Parle, Swift, Big Stone and Rock Counties.
The leadership of these counties, staff and elected leaders alike, are worried that current broadband is hindering economic growth and detracting from their ability to attract manufacturing firms, other businesses and, most importantly, people due to the lack of broadband services. More than 60 people attended one or more of three meetings held in Ivanhoe, Pipestone and Slayton, including a variety of broadband providers.
Attendees learned about the financial and technical challenges of providing high speed broadband in areas with such low population densities. Those who live behind trees or in low valleys talked about their discussions with providers and challenges of even receiving wireless services. They learned about the promise of the Connect America Fund 2 and when improvements might be coming. In the future days, leadership teams from the three counties will meet to discuss the meetings, the input from residents and businesses and next steps. Each county had 15 or more volunteers ready to team with county staff and elected officials on prospective solutions, including investing their own dollars to make expanded broadband possible.