Kandiyohi County to sell bonds next month to finance broadband project

According to the West Central Tribune

Tax abatement bonds will be issued this spring to finance Kandiyohi County’s matching share of a $10 million private-sector project to bring broadband to some of the rural neighborhoods that need it most.

The County Board of Commissioners set the process in motion Tuesday with the adoption of a pair of resolutions. The first resolution sets a tax abatement hearing for 10:15 a.m. April 4. The second clears the way for the sale of $5 million in bonds.

The amount is the local match for a $4.9 million grant awarded earlier this year by the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development to Consolidated Telecommunications Company.

It’s the county’s first foray into the realm of tax abatement bonds, said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.

The article goes on to explain the tax abatement bonds…

Proceeds from the bonds will be loaned to Consolidated Telecommunications Company for the broadband project.

The debt service for the bonds will be paid from tax abatement revenues and property taxes which will be reduced or cancelled by the loan payments from Consolidated Telecommunications Company, explained Shelly Eldridge, senior municipal adviser with Ehlers.

“We believe that this is the most cost-effective way to finance this project,” she told the County Commissioners.

A fact sheet on Ehlers web site further explains that tax abatement, in practice, is a reallocation of taxes. All taxes are still paid in full, but the abated amount is redirected to a specific project rather than going to the general fund. Bonds may be issued to finance the project and repaid with proceeds of the abatement.

I think it’s helpful for other communities to see how it’s getting done. The Border to Border grants are a huge boost to rural broadband in Minnesota – but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Generally the community and the provider hold a piece too.

Pipestone County proceeds with broadband feasibility study

We’re getting the regional study report from all angle – but I think it’s helpful to get the varied points of views. Today from the Pipestone County Star

Pipestone County will participate in a multi-county study to find out what it would take to provide broadband internet access to under-served parts of the county.

The county board during its Feb. 14 meeting voted unanimously to accept a proposal from Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting to conduct the feasibility study for Pipestone, Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Yellow Medicine counties.

According to the proposal, the study will include at least three scenarios: Building a complete fiber system; building a fiber backbone and using towers to provide wireless service; and building fiber only where it’s economically feasible and using wireless everywhere else.

Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine counties still looking at regional broadband study

The Marshall Independent reports on the growing partnership between Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine counties to plan for better broadband…

Access to high-speed Internet has become a hot topic for southwest Minnesota — because it’s something many residents still don’t have, especially in rural areas.

A group of six area counties is talking about ways to change that, however. On Tuesday, Lyon County commissioners voted to join in a proposed broadband feasibility study for Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine counties.

County Board chairman Paul Graupmann said the group of counties received a proposal for the study from Finley Engineering of Slayton.

“Several of us have met and discussed it,” and would like to move forward with the study, Graupmann said.

Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting are proposing to study three different possibilities for expanding broadband Internet in the region. The first possibility would be to build fiber lines out to underserved areas of each county. A less costly option could be to build a fiber-fed wireless network. The proposed study will also examine possible public/private partnerships.

The proposal said the study will compare costs for all three situations and look at ways to fund each.

Webinar Feb 15: Leveraging National Data to Jumpstart Your Broadband Plan

Thought folks might be interested…

BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations

Topic: Leveraging National Data to Jumpstart Your Broadband Plan

Date: Wednesday, February 15 from 2:00-3:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

Overview: The U.S. Census Bureau, NTIA, and FCC collect and make publicly available data about Internet availability, subscriptions, and usage. This webinar will do a “deep dive” into federal datasets, including the FCC Form 477 filings from broadband providers that show broadband availability, speed and technology, and NTIA’s Digital Nation data, which represents the largest comprehensive national household survey on computer and Internet use. We’ll also highlight how the BroadbandUSA Connectivity Initiative will leverage this data as part of its online assessment tool. Hear from the experts, ask your questions, and learn how to access and use these datasets to help your broadband Internet needs assessment and planning efforts.

Speakers:

  • Steven Rosenberg, Chief Data Officer, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Rafi Goldberg, Policy Analyst, Office of Policy Analysis and Development, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Robert Ballance, Presidential Innovation Fellow, Lead Architect, Connectivity Initiative Application

Moderators:

  • Karen Archer Perry, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA
  • Emy Tseng, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA

Registration

Pipestone County is looking at regional broadband options

According to the Pipestone County Star

Pipestone County Commissioners are considering working with Lincoln, Murray, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties to find out what it would take to provide broadband service to under-served areas of the counties and gauge interest in the availability of such service. …

Pipestone County Commissioners are considering working with Lincoln, Murray, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties to find out what it would take to provide broadband service to under-served areas of the counties and gauge interest in the availability of such service.

They are hoping that they can have the same success as Nobles County…

Nobles County is one nearby example of how a study and provision of service could be conducted and funded.

Tom Johnson, Nobles County administrator, said the Nobles Economic Opportunities Network (NEON), received a $25,000 Blandin grant to study broadband needs in the county. The county contributed another $25,000 to cover the 50 percent match requirement of the grant.

The study, conducted by Finley Engineering, estimated that it would cost $20 million to provide service to the under-served areas of the county using 100 percent fiber. It also found a strong desire for service and the likelihood of a high participation rate among rural residents .

Johnson said Frontier and the Lismore Telephone Company reviewed the study. Lismore used the information to develop a plan to provide service to the under-served areas using a fiber/wireless hybrid system that includes a fiber loop throughout the county and several towers. The company received a $2.94 million Minnesota Broadband Grant
and will contribute an equal amount to complete the roughly $6 million project.

Regional Broadband Study being discussed for Murray, Pipestone, Lincoln, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties

According to the West Central Tribune

Concerned that rural areas of the county could be left behind, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners informally expressed interest this week in being part of a six-county broadband feasibility study. …

Finley Engineering of Slayton has offered to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of bringing broadband service to unserved rural areas in the six counties. The information will be developed for the individual counties, but by participating as a larger group, the costs for the study will be lower, according to information from Peg Heglund, Yellow Medicine County administrator.

Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties are looking at joining Murray, Pipestone, Lincoln and Lyon counties in the study.

The counties do not know what the study will cost at this point. The commissioners will need to formally approve being part of the study once the cost is known. The county is also seeking a possible Blandin Foundation grant toward its cost, according to Antony.

The commissioners noted that some neighboring counties, including Lac qui Parle, Swift and Kandiyohi, have recently seen success in obtaining grant funds toward projects to bring broadband service to unserved rural areas.

The article include a comment from a Commissioner that I thought was particularly astute…

“If we drop this thing, guys, we’re going to be an island in 10 years and (people will) look back on this thing and say what were they doing?” said Commissioner Ron Antony during discussions at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Granite Falls.

Pope County working on broadband survey to measure broadband need and interest

According to the Pope County Tribune

Not everyone in Pope County has access to high-speed Internet, and county officials are working to improve that access and to provide faster speeds in all areas of the county.

The first step in that effort is to determine what areas of the county are lacking access and speed and what residents would like to see improved.  A Pope County Initiative group, headed by Information Technology Director Donna Martin, is currently working to improve Internet access for everyone in the area.  And, to measure the current level of interest in higher speed Internet access, the team is conducting a survey, which is being mailed to every household in the county.  The survey is  designed to get opinions on current and needed Internet access and seeks responses.

Residents have two ways to complete the survey.  They can fill out and return the mailed survey, which should be arriving at residences this week.  Or, residents can complete the survey online by going to http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3155201/New-Survey.  The survey only takes a few minutes to complete, but Martin said she would like to get a high percentage of county residents to complete the survey.  “That’s why we are mailing it to every residence and business in Pope County,” she said.  Those who are mailing back the survey are asked to use the enclosed “dots” to seal two sides of the brochure and attach the postage also provided.  There is no cost to the resident to mail the survey back.

The results of the survey will help the county in its efforts to secure a grant that will help pay for a feasibility study, and, it is hoped, will ultimately result in state or federal funding to increase access and Internet speeds for the entire county.