The Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard from Federated Rural Electric regarding plans to apply for a state grant to expand broadband in rural northwest Jackson County.
Federated General Manager Scott Reimer said the co-op wants to build out fiber to the home in rural Jackson County, adding the Heron Lake area is a good place to start because it was not put up for auction in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund reverse auction.
The move comes on the heels of controversial behavior by two companies, Nextlink and LTD Broadband, which mopped up large swaths of territory at the auction, including most of Jackson County. LTD in particular has been accused of failing to acquire the proper licensing in states it has bid to build in, resulting in it being kicked out from those states and being unable to build out commitments in those areas.
“They’ve been denied in several states because of that,” said engineer Chris Konechne, who is working with Federated on the grant. “Minnesota will be the last shoe to drop because they were founded here.”
Surveys have indicated an interest among the roughly 201 people who might be served by the project and Reimer said the application is the next step in Federated’s broader goal of building out fiber Internet service in all areas of Jackson County that lack it.
Up to $520,000 could be funded through the grant.