Duluth is looking at community broadband network options to lower costs

WDIO Duluth reports…

Economic development staff have studied ways to do just that. And they are proposing a pilot project, that could expand city-wide.  It’s called the Lincoln Park Open Access Fiber Pilot Project. And it would be voluntary. Consumers would pay about half of that $70-$80 [average broadband cost in Duluth] per month.

It would mean the city would build the network, but ultimately, someone else would run it and others could join it.

“The pilot project really allows the city to own the infrastructure and to use grant funding as well as other financing tools to really reduce the cost, to build that out and then invite in another provider to help us to manage and operate that system,” Emily Nygren explained. She’s an Economic Developer. “And then we allow other businesses to come into that network and directly serve households and businesses”

They discuss some potential costs…

The Lincoln Park proposal calls for about $9 million dollars in city funds. There is an opportunity for a state grant as well, to expand to more neighborhoods, like downtown.

City councilor Arik Forsman said there is some hesitation about moving in the direction of a city-owned operation.

“I think it’s fair to say there are mixed feelings about whether this is the right solution,” he told us.

Especially since some of the money for the project would be coming out of the Community Investment Fund. “It’s a big decision to tap $5 million dollars for any neighborhood, or any initiative,” he added.

Duluth New Tribune also reports on the meeting that will happen today (July 11) to discussion the expansion…

Three resolutions that could launch a new fiber optic data network are on the agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting, but it’s unclear whether they will go to a vote.

Council President Arik Forsman said he does not want to rush into the decision, which likely would include the proposed expenditure of $5 million from the Community Investment Trust to fund a pilot project in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. A recently released Digital Access Master Plan calls for the city to build out an open-access fiber optic system designed to deliver faster service and promote more competition between internet service providers, theoretically driving down consumer costs.

City administration proposes to draw an additional $4 million in funding from portions of the general fund not directly tied to the levy. The combined sum of $9 million should be sufficient to cover the anticipated cost of the Lincoln Park pilot project.

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