Ely prepares for a feasibility study

The Ely Echo reports on a recent Rotary Club meeting where they seemed to discuss broadband in great details. (What a smart place to spread the word!) The article is informative; I’ll try to pull out some of the highlights.

They Ely Area Broadband Coalition met recently…

The group has hired a consultant to complete a feasibility study in the Ely area to develop options for improved internet speed.
Jack Maytum, Senior Broadband Analyst with Design Nine, was at the meeting taking input and discussing opportunities.
Only a few minutes into the meeting stories of poor internet service surfaced.

The future of Lake Connections has had an impact on the area…

Lake Connections has provided high speed connections to a number of people south of Ely, including to residents in Babbitt and Embarrass. However the company managing the project scaled back when funds dried up.
Lake County hired CTC to manage Lake Connections and is now trying to sell the business.
“We’re connecting customers with the resources we have. With Lake County selling Lake Connections it will be another six months before there’s any real movement on selling the network. At that time whoever purchases Lake Connections is who you need to talk to,” said Joseph Buttweiler of Connect CTC out of Brainerd.
He added that of the 13,500 homes listed on the original federal funding application, Lake Connections has just 2,600 subscribers.

The project is assessing needs and assets…

Maytum said the first step will be an inventory of assets in the area, including towers, fiber, and other elements of a network. There will be a survey sent out to residential and business owners in the Ely area.
Surveys can be filled out on paper and mailed in or filled out online.
Maytum said he could see Ely with a fiber “core” (rather than copper or wireless) that could be built around the city limits.
He said the core could be used to connect to towers that would provide wireless broadband in the townships.
The 180-foot towers could serve clusters of homes and could be built in as little as six months. Maytum said that cost could be as low as $135,000 for construction.

The will look at financing…

A detailed financial analysis will be performed, including where to get the funding. The study will recommend who should run the network. The city will be the owner, but a non-profit should probably manage it.

And a glimpse at expectations from incumbent providers…

“We’ve seen a change in the cable and telephone industries,” said Maytum. Their business model focuses more on content than infrastructure.
“Here, in Ely, we’ll be looking at Frontier poles and pole access closely,” said Maytum.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, Building Broadband Tools, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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