West Central Tribune reports…
Connie Schmoll, from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, hopes 2021 is the year a major broadband project is started in underserved areas of the county. She presented information Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board, looking for board support on a potential project that could require financial backing from the county.
Here’s a list form of the various opportunities:
- A survey conducted in Kandiyohi County last year of internet availability and usage showed many were not happy with their internet as the pandemic added significantly to the data being used at homes across the area.
The good news is there might be fiber broadband expansion on the horizon. Late last year LTD Broadband was one of the winners of the Federal Communications Commission Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. …
“They are going to be providing fiber in a large portion of the south part of the county,” Schmoll said.
While that would reduce the number of underserved households, there would still be pockets of need.
- There is some positive news on that front. The Federated Telephone Cooperative has been allowed to expand its service area.
“They are interested in Kandiyohi County, to move into our county, especially the west side and northern area of our county,” Schmoll said. “That was a huge plus.”
- Schmoll is hoping to bring together a fiber broadband project with at least three rural townships in partnership with Federated, which has said it will provide 25 percent of the project costs.
A similar project that never quite got off the ground in Dovre, Hamre and St. John’s Townships was estimated to cost close to $4 million and the service provider was only willing to provide 15 percent of the cost.
- A Border to Border Broadband Development Grant from the state, if awarded, could provide up to 50 percent or $5 million toward a project. However, the state Legislature has not yet approved funding for another round of grants for this year, Schmoll said.
- County Administrator Larry Kleindl said even if every township in the county wanted that $25,000 for a broadband project, the county could financially make it work.
And end with a statement that shows the level of priority in the area…
“The viability of our rural areas is literally at stake here,” said Commissioner Steve Gardner. “I don’t believe that we as a board can afford to be bashful about supporting financially the efforts to bring broadband to all of these underserved areas.”