Ely uses feasibility study to come up with better broadband scenarios for the community

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (MunitNetworks) reports…

Last fall, the northern Minnesota community of Ely took up a feasibility study to determine the possibilities of better connectivity with publicly owned Internet infrastructure. They also wanted to explore local interest in investment. After conducting a survey and reviewing the situation, local officials are contemplating moving ahead with two pilot projects.

They outline the results of a recent community survey…

As anticipated, residents and businesses who took the survey revealed that 94 percent of local residents and 98 percent of business owners want improved connectivity in Ely. Jack Maytum, senior broadband analyst for Design Nine, relayed that approximately 400 residents and 60 local business owners completed the survey. The community chose Design Nine to complete the feasibility study.

From the residents who took the survey, only nine percent have connections that meet the FCC definition of broadband — 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

Forty-four percent of the people answering the survey purchase DSL Internet access and 27 percent subscribe to cable service.

Forty-eight percent of those who completed the survey said that they have the type of Internet access they have because they have “no other option.” If the Ely community had better competition, for companies and types of services, they might not need to engage in a feasibility study or consider a publicly owned option, but like many rural communities, large national providers are investing elsewhere.

Twenty-three percent of respondents consider themselves self-employed or describe their employment as full-time or part-time from home. In places like Ely, where upload speeds are not robust, entrepreneurs with home bases have a difficult time if their businesses require connectivity. For many businesses today, the ability to send information to colleagues online is a necessity and a fast, reliable connection is critical to everyday business.

Subsequently, they are looking at a few options – like starting with the downtown area…

One of the pilot projects community leaders are now considering is a fiber loop around the downtown area. Community leaders want to help existing businesses and attract new growth. At this early stage, Design Nine and the city are working on cost estimates, but Ely leaders have expressed that better broadband is a priority.

Another focuses on residential areas…

The pilot project for residential service may take on a public-private flavor. One of the early suggestions is that the city invest in fixed wireless equipment and towers and fiber at two local lakes that are outside of city limits. They would own the infrastructure and lease it to a private sector Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer fixed wireless services to the homes around the area.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, Building Broadband Tools, Community Networks, MN, Wireless 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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