Murray County Broadband Feasibility Study: fiber in stages may be possible over years, fixed wireless already available

With funding from the Blandin Foundation, Murray County worked with Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting on a study that would look at if and how the county might take on bringing fiber to all corners of the county.

Here’s the executive summary of the Murray County Broadband Feasibility Study – check out the full study for greater details and next steps…

Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting submit this report of our findings and recommendations for the feasibility of finding a broadband solution that meets the state broadband goals of 100 Mbps download speeds for those parts of the county without fast broadband today. The county is typical of many rural counties where a substantial part of the county has or will soon have fiber to residents, while other parts of the county will be served by slower broadband technologies.

Our study looked at the feasibility of bringing fiber broadband to the parts of the county that are not expected to have fast broadband to homes and businesses over the next few years. The areas served today by Woodstock Communications already have fiber. Redwood County Telephone Company will be building fiber to customers in the Walnut Grove area and thus that area was excluded from the study. There is fast broadband provided by cable companies in the towns of Slayton, Lake Wilson, Currie, Fulda, Avoca, and Hadley and those towns were also excluded from the study. That leaves a study area consisting of the rural areas served today by CenturyLink and Frontier Communications including the towns of Iona, Chandler, Dovray, and the Lakes area.

The studies looked at the business plan for bringing fiber to the service area. The vast majority of the study area has (or will soon have) fixed wireless broadband. This technology can deliver broadband connections in the range of 25 Mbps download, and sometimes faster.

However, we know the county’s goal is to eventually have fiber everywhere and the current wireless broadband is not a permanent bandwidth solution. Broadband trends show that the amount of bandwidth needed by a typical home will keep growing, and at some time in the future these wireless networks will seem too slow and become obsolete in the same manner that has happened in the past with dial-up and DSL broadband.

Our analysis shows that it is not economically feasible to build fiber everywhere in the rural parts of the county using the existing Border-to-Border grant program—the 50% grant matching in that program is not high enough to create a sustainable network. However, it would be possible to fund fiber using these grants if the percent of the grant matching is increased above the 50% level used in awarding these grants today. It might also be feasible to build the fiber in stages over multiple years to get the needed grant funding.

It is likely to be a challenge for a service provider to building fiber today since almost all of the rural area is served with newly-built fixed wireless technology that is capable of delivering speeds of at least 25 Mbps download. Any potential fiber provider is going to worry that many households will be satisfied with that level of broadband speed.

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