Business North reports…
Lake Connections, the broadband company established by Lake County, Minn., is being sold to Zito Media.
“We are just waiting on our franchise permits. At that point, the Lake County fiber network will be 100 percent Zito owned,” said Zito President Jim Rigas said.
Zito, a small cable and data operator based in Pennsylvania with operations in 17 states, intends to maintain the Two Harbors office and local staff.
The article does a nice job outlining the trials and tribulations of Lake County Broadband and recognizes the people who forged ahead to make broadband happen for their county…
Lake County Commissioner Rich Sve has the unique perspective of watching the journey of county-owned broadband from the beginning. Sve had just been elected as commissioner for the first time in 2009, and midway through that year, the county began its grant application to introduce a fiber network reaching into rural Lake County.
With a couple of options already available for high-speed internet service within the cities of Lake County, Sve said, it was the rural regions that were neglected and no incumbent service would step up.
“There was no one else who would do it, and we recognized that to be part of the world we live in requires that type of bandwidth.”
The county board in 2010 foresaw a future with many basic needs, such as healthcare, elders aging in place and education, that would rely on all county residents having access to high-speed internet. For the county to thrive, attract companies and entrepreneurs and develop economically, it was a must, the board decided.
“I’m most proud of bringing broadband infrastructure to so many people,” Sve said, “and in the same breath, I regret that we did not get to every corner of the county as we had hoped to.”
Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston had also just begun in that position at the start of the broadband project.
“It felt like it was uphill the whole way, but the board stepped out on a limb for something it believed in even with the risk involved,” he said, “and without that, I’m not sure such a big portion of the county would have been reached.”
Huddleston expressed disappointment that the last miles of fiber were not yet laid to the farthest reaches of the county, however, he feels confident that the county board’s perseverance brought the project through obstacles that a private entity might not have managed.
Huddleston said he is hopeful those final connections and more fiber placement will continue under new ownership, and added that the county intends to work cooperatively with the new owners to advocate for grant opportunities.
It sounds like Zito is looking at moving forward…
Going forward, Rigas said, Zito Media’s focus is to connect as many customers as possible. He noted a significant number of people live next to fiber that has already been placed, but their homes are not yet connected to the network.
“The county has collected 600 or more expressions of interest in being served by us,” said Rigas, adding that the company would first like to connect customers already next to the fiber lines.
The second step for Zito will be looking at the areas where deployed conduit is only partially complete, with evaluation taking place over the course of the next year, according to Rigas.