The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She talks about the Lake County (Lake Connections) broadband project has a financial failure. I’ve written about Lake County many time in the past. They received federal funding as part of the ARRA program. They used it to build FTTH. The provide that built the network recently sold it at a loss.
But what would have happened if they didn’t build the network. Lake County is larger with few residents. A commercial provider is/was unlikely to expand to the area. Without broadband, it is difficult for a rural community to thrive. Research we did for the Blandin Foundation two summers ago found that people in Lake County were happy with the network and policy makers did not regret their decision. Each household with broadband reaps on the average a $1,850 economic benefit annually – at 2,500 homes that’s $4.6 million a year.
The Freedom Foundation offers a scenario they prefer, the public-private model…
Several Minnesota communities have opted to communicate their broadband needs to incumbent local providers to develop plans that would increase subscribers for the private internet company as well as achieving greater and faster service for local residents. These public/private partnerships deserve further study and support as a way to achieve greater economic growth in rural areas without the enormous risk that occurs to taxpayers when local government enters the market as a competitor.
Without a doubt that’s a model that many would like to replicate, but you need a willing partner. When you don’t have a willing partner, you need to come up with a plan B if you want your community to grow and thrive