Update on East Central Energy’s push to get better broadband to Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, and Pine Counties

The Isanti-Chisago Country Star gives an update on East Central Energy’s journey to providing better broadband to residents within ECE’s electricity service area, which includes around 65,000 members over 14 counties, including Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, and Pine Counties. Here’s an abridged look at the timeline that Isanti-Chisago Country Star provides…

  • ECE’s Board of Directors, back in November 2021, approved moving forward with developing a plan for a full-fiber-to-the-home project. According to a press release announcing the plan, ECE stated that the cost of such a project could be as much as $300 million. Because of that, ECE Vice President Ty Houglum stated that the only way ECE could make it work would be through appropriate outside funding.
  • During the June 15 North 65 Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Jahnz expounded on that position.
    “What we’re doing right now is a campaign to raise awareness that ECE is a great candidate to provide fiber-to-home across our service territory,” Jahnz said. “We are working with state and federal folks to talk about why that’s important and why we can be the best option for that.”
  • Jahnz said that in March, ECE applied for its first grant, which is for “a little bit of Wisconsin, a little bit in Pine County, a little in Kanabec, stretching over to Mille Lacs and up to Aitkin.” (see shaded area on map)
    He said that one grant would be $48 million in scope, with it equally being divided between the grant and a low-interest loan.
  • Besides that snafu [LTD Broadband may get RDOF funding – but I’ve written about that before], however, Jahnz is confident ECE will be able to obtain funding for a majority of its members’ areas.
    “To date, the area that we’re talking about, no one wants to go,” he concluded. “Even with funding, no one wants to go there. It’s one thing to get the money to build it. It’s another thing to have the wherewithal to maintain it, take care of it, repair it. We’ve been here 85 years, and I think we do a pretty good job of standing things back up when they fall down.”

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