Views of broadband expansion in Rice County

Faribault Daily News reports on what community leaders and broadband providers are saying about broadband expansion in Rice County.

From Governor Walz…

Leading the charge to expand broadband access been Gov. Tim Walz. The first greater Minnesota resident to be elected governor since Rudy Perpich in 1986, Walz served as representative for the largely rural 1st Congressional District before his election. Earlier this year, Walz allocated more than $23 million in funding for rural broadband projects and asked the legislature for an additional $30 million. In announcing the grant awards, he said that internet is far from a luxury for rural Minnesotans.

From Rice County Commissioner Jeff Docken…

Rice County Commissioner Jeff Docken has long championed boosting access to high -peed broadband in his mostly rural district. Docken, a farmer, believes that high speed internet has become an invaluable tool for agriculture, small businesses and telecommuters. However, Docken doesn’t expect the state to come near its goal of hitting 100% broadband connectivity by 2022. At best, he said that a five- to eight-year timeframe would be more realistic.

From Galen Malecha (Northfield on the Board of Commissioners)…

Galen Malecha, who represents most of Northfield on the Board of Commissioners, said that in the southeast and southwest corners of Rice County there’s no broadband service at all and no plans are in the works to cover those areas. Malecha pledged that the board would continue to work on the issue until every Rice County resident has satisfactory access to broadband. However, he said that the economic equation makes attracting providers a challenge.

From Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Matt Hillmann…

Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Matt Hillmann said that during the “Stay at Home” order, unequal access to internet was felt acutely by the district’s rural residents. Hillmann said that given how essential the internet is to modern society, such a discrepancy has deeply unfair and unequal effects that must be remedied.

And from the providers, starting with Jaguar…

Jaguar covers a wide service area, including all or part of 13 counties throughout southern Minnesota. With backing from the state and federal governments, Wilker said Jaguar is working to expand and improve its coverage further, one customer at a time.

And BEVCOMM…

In western Rice County, Blue Earth-based BEVCOMM is working to expand and improve its services. CEO Bill Eckels said that the company recently completed an improved network for Morristown residents and is in the process of hooking them up to it.

BEVCOMM recently purchased Lonsdale Telephone Co., which serves Lonsdale and Morristown. In January, the governor announced that BEVCOMM has been awarded more than $2.5 million in grant funding for three separate broadband projects.

Roughly two thirds of that funding went to a project that will boost broadband speeds in northwest Rice County, northeast Le Sueur County and southern Scott County — an area which includes 417 households, 88 farms, 59 businesses, and 4 “community anchor institutions.”

This entry was posted in MN, Policy, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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