Pipestone County is working with Hometown Fiber on better broadband plan

Pipestone County Star reports…

Pipestone County Commissioners during their Oct. 11 meeting approved paying Hometown Fiber up to $99,900 to see what it would take to build a fiber optic internet network that would provide access to quality internet throughout the county. …

According to DEED, much of Pipestone County does not meet that criteria (see map). Pipestone County Administrator Steve Ewing said that’s why he thought it was worth considering the proposal from Hometown Fiber.

More on the project…

According to the proposal from Hometown Fiber, workers will go out into the field to document fiber optic and other broadband assets that exist in the county now, evaluate the technology’s capacity and condition, and identify potential fiber optic lease or partnership opportunities. It will develop economic projections and pre-engineering costs using a per property estimate formula. The estimate will account for population density, geology and topology. The financial analysis will project revenue and expenses to build and operate the network in each city and township.

The next step includes generating network designs, technical drawings, maps of fiber routes, a bill of materials and a technical plan needed for grant applications and other funding sources. The financial plan will include bonding options, terms, return on investment and recurring revenue. It will also identify internet service providers interested in serving the communities and provide information on the type of services and their costs.

Moving forward…

She [Hometown Fiber broadband consultant, Marlena Pfeiffer] said it can cost up to $15,000 to complete an application for a Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant. If some of that information can be used for other grant applications, she said the costs to apply for those grants could be around to $5,000 to $10,000. She said there are also federal loan programs with low interest rates that some projects qualify for.
Pfeiffer said the county could also bond for some of the cost of the project and the bonds could be paid off through internet service providers paying to use the network.

“We’re using your credit, but we’re paying your bills, so in the end this costs you nothing,” she said.

“We’re using your credit, but we’re paying your bills, so in the end this costs you nothing,” she said.

Smith [Hometown vice president] said what usually happens is that the county, township or city they work with owns the conduit that protects the fiber optics and Hometown Fiber owns the fiber, internet exchange and other equipment and is responsible for all operations and maintenance. The county could also decide not to own any of it.

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