Mower County to vote on supporting rural broadband project today

Mid Continent has asked Mower County to support their application for a Minnesota Broadband grant to extend/expand broadband in the area. The Austin Daily Herald reports…

Currently, MIDCO is working on an application for Minnesota Broadband funds that would permit them to build out broadband in unserved or underserved areas in rural Minnesota by working with six counties and submit their grant with either five or six projects.

Mower County was chosen as one of the six counties to be eligible for a grant between $300,000 to $500,000 for its project of bringing rural broadband into the area, and was part of the region that was awarded Connect America Funds because the large geographic area that was unserved and underserved. Harren said that the goal is to keep deployment costs low, under $5,000 per home.

If the county board approves, then this will be included in their Minnesota Broadband grant application. If given the Minnesota Broadband grant, then MIDCO would provide high-speed internet access to every home and business in the following areas:

Sargeant

Waltham

Elkton

Grand Meadow

Then, MIDCO would deploy fixed wireless assets in a six- to seven-mile radius within those communities. Harren shared that even though many providers continue to focus more on fiber in ground solutions, MIDCO has been utilizing deployment solutions including fixed asset high-speed access and a hybrid solution using a mix of fiber and cable.

“With Mower County being a large ag community, fiber in the ground was never a viable option,” she said. “But, MIDCO can put fiber in the ground in towns while using fixed assets such as grain elevators and sending signals from a direct fiber connection, then they can cover almost every part of the county.”

Mower County is voting (actually voted last night)…

The Mower County Board will be voting during their Tuesday session to either approve or deny support for the rural broadband project that would expand high-speed internet in rural parts of the area. The Mid Continent Communication (MIDCO) based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, requested the board to pass a resolution and approve a letter of support from the county after being provisionally awarded $38.9 million in Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II funding through the Federal Communications Commission to provide high-speed internet access to 9,371 places using optical fiber and terrestrial fixed wireless assets.

They talked about the need for better broadband, especially outside of Austin…

Harren noted that outside of Austin city limits, much of Mower County were either underserved or unserved with high-speed internet services. For those who depend on the internet for their businesses and education, ensuring that residents who live in the county received affordable, competitive internet services when many providers would not be able to give high-speed internet in sparsely populated areas is imperative.

Although there weren’t specific percentages as to how much of Mower County remains underserved or unserved entirely, Harren said that the high cost often deterred providers from extending services to areas where populations were more sparse.

“The agricultural areas have sparse populations that would not support the expense of a fiber build out there because there are not enough users,” Harren said. “We have a lot of geography that is completely unserved with sparse population due to our ag industry. We also have a large underserved geography. Without Minnesota Broadband and the FCC doing this type of funding, it would not be financially feasible in rural areas. It takes a MIDCO grant to make this possible.”

According to KTTC, they voted to go for it…

Today, the Mower County voted to apply for a Mid-Continent Communication grant that would bring high speed internet to the towns of Dexter, Grand Meadow, Sargeant and Elkton.

What would be nice is that the State would require Mid Continent to build to 100/20, which is considerably faster than the CAF II requirements so encourages the company to do more than is federally required with the money.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards, Policy 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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