The Yellow Medicine County Board met to discuss their broadband plan – investment, grant applications and partners in a plan to being providing fiber service to the county. Sounds like they have a willing partner and community investment. They are hoping for a Minnesota broadband grant – and I’d say that’s the linchpin here in the project. They are asking good questions. The Independent reported on the meeting.
Scope of work…
Two methods were being looked at, Konechne said. First, to build fiber into the entire area or building a hybrid model with fiber to towns and branch off of that.
In the rural area, YMC is looking at a potential of 1,862 customers.
“That includes a large pile of homes and a handful of businesses without internet service,” Dawson said. He and Konechne went into the details of the 52-mile width of land to cover, he called it the backbone. It adds up to about 955 miles of rods, weaving down township roads because there seems to be a household down each one, he said.
They are looking at delivering the service on poles, like telephone wires.
The next steps for the county to consider were half done, the consultants said, because the first step was to find a partner for the project. Which, depending on getting a grant, the board had made that agreement at the last meeting.
The YMC Board approved a $4 million broadband agreement with Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative (FMTC) in August pending the cooperative receiving a grant to cover half of the costs for the project.
The grant would only cover about 49 percent of the project FMTC had asked the county to loan it the other 51 percent if the grant came through. The county could bond the funds at a minimum of $4 million with the repayments coming from FMTC.
Isaackson then brought up a coverage glitch. The project is to service the central and northeast portion of the county, not the southeast where he lives.
“How are we covered?” he asked.
Heglund said that the county was looking at Arvig to cover that area since it is already in parts of the southeast end of the county.
“They have five to 10 years to complete the project,” she said.
“Fiber to towers will enhance MVTV service,” Antony said.
“The 52-mile backbone does hit a lot of their spots,” Konechne said. A successful combination is high elevation (towers) and solid backbone (fiber).
The second step is to find the other half of the financing for the unserved area. Another partner to help with that would be ideal.
Repaying a loan was weighing on Greg Isaackson’s mind. Isaackson, from Cottonwood, is the treasurer for MVTV. He wanted to know what happens if the annual payment on the bonded amount doesn’t get paid.
“The fiber is collateral,” Heglund said. “We’d have to find another partner.”
She went on to explain that there would be precautions up front. The county has to get at least a 63 percent take rate (subscribers). Farmers Mutual Cooperative would have to show it financials, that it can make these payments, before the deal went through.