More details on City of Cloquet Broadband Border to Border Project

Yesterday I posted about the MN Border to Border awards, including the City of Cloquet Broadband project. Thanks to the City of Cloquet for more details…

The City of Cloquet Broadband Project Details The CTC Cloquet project will improve service in the northern part of the City in unserved or underserved areas. The project will pass by 246 homes at a cost of $984,790 funded by
$400,000 in Minnesota Border-To-Border funding, $300,000 in City of Cloquet America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA funding), and $300,000 from CTC to implement. Below is a map of the improvement area, the green and pink area is within the City of Cloquet and would serve 246
homes located north of North Road, and the blue area covers a portion of Thomson Township where the project would serve 92 homes at a cost of $531,000. CTC will be working with the state now to gain project approvals and will roll out their timeframe for construction in the
future.
Northern Cloquet Broadband Improvement Area:

Community Engagement Process
With little expertise in broadband, the City of Cloquet EDA applied to be part of the Blandin Foundation’s Broadband Communities Program, leveraging broadband consultant technical assistance to help guide the City through discussions. After several months of discussions,
Blandin Foundation recommended that the City of Cloquet EDA needed to go through a formal community engagement process and form a committee of broadband stakeholders. Blandin recommended that Cloquet apply to be part of the Community Broadband Resources (CBR)
Program: Accelerate! which is a four-month process to spur community acquisition and deployment of federal and state broadband funds. This four-month intensive program is
designed to increase rural leaders’ ability to stimulate broadband infrastructure investments in their communities that support economic development and community vitality. CBR Accelerate! teams are formed locally to determine the best path forward to better broadband services through:
• Facilitated weekly Blandin meetings
• Leadership broadband education via archived webinars, expert presentations, and peer group discussions
• Information gathering including community surveys, broadband provider interviews, and community meetings
• Step by step broadband planning to:
o Develop a community broadband vision
o Understand the local marketplace
o Determine appropriate technologies
o Consider alternative broadband provider partnerships models and prospective broadband provider partners
o Identify and seek available funding resources
The Cloquet Broadband Steering Committee was comprised of collective information technology and community members representatives with expertise in broadband. Membership included: the business community, Carlton County, residents, the college (FDLTCC), the hospital (CMH), the School District, the City, and elected officials. The Steering Committee’s purpose was to create and launch a community broadband survey, create a community broadband vision, to interview current and potential providers, and recommend broadband directions for the City. The committee launched a July 2021 Cloquet Broadband survey yielding 192 responses. In
January 2022, Cloquet relaunched the same broadband survey and yielded another 491 surveys
bringing the total to 683 surveys. Survey findings for Cloquet were:
1. Broadband is not affordable
2. Broadband service has poor customer service and is unreliable
3. Broadband doesn’t have sufficient speeds to meet demands
4. There are a lack of broadband provider choices, service is a monopoly
With symmetrical fiber to the home projects, the Cloquet Broadband Committee concluded that the best partners for the City to partner with were CTC and FDL Reservation, with CTC being more ready to lead an immediate grant application process and analysis with the City. The Cloquet Broadband Committee shared their recommendations with the Cloquet City Council and the Cloquet EDA. Submitting this state grant application for Border-To-Border funding into unserved/underserved areas in northern Cloquet in partnership with CTC would implement their project recommendations aligned with the project vision. The Cloquet Broadband Vision: To ensure access to affordable, reliable, high-speed fiber internet delivered by a committed
capable community partner skilled in maintaining and operating a successful broadband network.
“We cannot thank the Blandin Foundation enough for their incredible leadership in assisting our community engagement process on broadband. We’d like to thank CTC for their collaboration with the City and we look forward to working with them on this project,” said City Administrator Tim Peterson.
“The Cloquet Broadband Committee was instrumental in the success of this project being funded, they are collectively incredible, and I can’t say enough about them nor the valuable process that we went through with the Blandin Foundation,” said Holly Hansen, City of Cloquet Community Development Director.
“We’re incredibly excited about this partnership,” said Joe Buttweiler, CTC’s Director of Business Development. “This project will be instrumental for families and businesses as well as for future economic growth in these communities. We look forward to providing everyone with fast, reliable internet and top-notch local customer service for years to
come.”
“The outcome of this process has been amazing. We all recognize the fundamental necessity of affordable, consistent broadband access in our community, and the grant is a major step toward achieving this goal. It’s great news for our taxpayers, and for our efforts to become
a technology-capable community for residents and businesses,” said City of Cloquet City Councilor At-Large Lara Wilkinson.

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