After posting the MN County Digital Equity Profiles earlier this week, Randy Lehs was generous enough to send me an update on what’s going on in Carver County. It will help hugely with the Broadband County Profiles in a couple of month, and I’m excited to share the info now. (And the invitation is open to anyone else who wants to send me an update on what’s happening in their area email@example.com.)
Carver County has a number of collaborations and initiatives that have been in motion over the past years in the County’s long term efforts to become the first County in Minnesota to have 100% access availability to wired fiber speeds up to 1GB symmetrical bandwidth, for anyone that desires it. To simplify our efforts the County has put together a broadband coverage map that identifies areas by the County’s specific efforts relating to broadband. The green areas we consider already serviced by our existing fiber infrastructure, blue is our Connect Up Carver Initiative areas, red are RDOF defined coverage areas and tan are any areas that reside within the city limits of any of our 11 communities. I have included this coverage map for your reference and below I have identified our current activities in our efforts in each of these areas to meet our 100% coverage goal:
- (Blue) On Monday Sept 19th, 2022, Carver County began construction of our Connect Up Carver Initiative, which is a $10.5 million project that leverages the County’s existing publicly owned CarverLink middle-mile fiber network to construct over 350 miles of additional middle mile County owned fiber routes to serve defined geographical areas of Carver County, primarily rural in nature, identified as underserved and unserved locations. The project partners with the private service provider Metronet and requires them to make available to anyone that desires it, wired 1GB fiber internet to any of the upwards of 2200 locations within the projects construction area. More information about this project is also available on our dedicated CarverLink website at https://carverlink.com/connect-up-carver. I am also including the County’s press release and a copy of a recent Star Tribune article on our construction start.
- (Red) Similar to many areas throughout Minnesota, Carver County was impacted by the August FCC revocation of LTD Broadband’s RDOF award. In Carver County all the RDOF areas were awarded to LTD, which per LTD’s award covered over 2700 locations defined as under/unserved. With the LTD funding revocation this has thrown the County off track in our efforts towards having available 100% fiber coverage countywide. With the timing of this revocation and the County already investing considerable financial resources in our Connect Up Carver Initiative, we maneuvered quickly to put together the Carver to the Finish grant funding request to NTIA’s Enabling Middle Mile program that closed on Sept 30, 2022. Our request was for a $3.5 million grant for a $5 million project that would allow the County to build additional middle mile fiber in an expansion of our existing CarverLink middle mile network and via this new middle mile build, would allow the several service providers already operating in our network, and any other viable providers that wish to enter the network via our open access policy, to provide our required 1GB wired fiber internet service to these 2700+ locations. We are also reviewing options for parallel grant requests into the USDA’s ReConnect Round 4 program that closes on Nov 4, 2022 and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program that is currently still being defined by NTIA.
- (Tan) Outside of our rural areas, Carver County has 11 cities which includes our smaller more rural communities of Hamburg, Mayer, and New Germany to our mid-sized communities of Norwood Young America (NYA), Watertown, and Cologne, to our more urbanized and larger metro communities of Waconia, Victoria, Chanhassen, Chaska and City of Carver. Over the past six years Carver County has worked with the primary service provider in our network Jaguar Communications, which in 2020 was acquired by Metronet, to help facilitate fiber overlays/overbuilds in our cities. We have helped facilitate completing fiber overlays in NYA in 2017, Hamburg in 2018, Mayer in 2019, New Germany in 2019, Cologne in 2022, Chanhassen (active build), City of Carver (active build), Watertown (in final fiber agreement negotiations), Waconia (in final fiber agreement negotiations), Victoria (planning), Chaska (pre-planning).
- (Green) Lastly, we have identified changes in the current economic environment relating to service provider construction costs in making last mile connections into our existing CarverLink middle mile fiber that was initially installed in 2013 and we have expanded over the past decade. We have identified that some rural businesses and residents that reside along existing CarverLink middle mile infrastructure, that per FCC service maps would be considered serviced, are actually not economically viable for our service providers to connect due to the distance to the nearest interconnection points in our existing middle mile network. We are currently reviewing all locations in our green “already serviced area” to identify these specific locations and we are discussing strategies to accommodate the finances and physical network changes needed to accommodate making the last mile connections financially viable for our service providers so that these locations have access to the 1GB wired fiber connectivity we desire.
The map is so helpful. It’s easy to assess what’s happening in each area. So easy for folks who live in the area but also for policymakers and potential funders.