Partnerships Bring Better Broadband to Le Sueur County, Minnesota - Episode 446 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast we’re catching up with what’s been happening in Le Sueur County (pop. 28,000) in southern Minnesota, and path they’re on to turn the region from one of the least connected in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes to one on track to becoming among the most connected in the next couple of years. To do so, Christopher talks with Barbara Droher Kline, a county consultant who helped the county organize the recent broadband efforts. 

She shares with Chris the history of their recent work to bring area towns together and the resulting partnerships with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to do both fiber and fixed wireless projects. Chris and Barbara end the conversation by briefly discussing the recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, and the adverse consequences it’s having in places like Le Sueur.

This show is 34 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.



Barbara Droher Kline: Keep talking, asking elected officials and government people to step up and listen. And we had a hundred percent support on all of our broadband work from every commissioner, every city administrator, every township has voted unanimously to support this stuff.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Welcome to episode 446, The Community Broadband Bits podcast. This is Ry Marcattilio-McCracken here at the Institute for Local Self-reliance. We caught up with what's been happening in Le Sueur County, Minnesota, a few weeks back, and the path we're on to turn the county from being one of the least connected in the land of 10,000 lakes, to one on track to becoming among the most connected in the next couple of years. In this week's episode, Christopher talks with Barbara Droher Kline, the County consultant who helped organize the recent broadband efforts, partly as the result of her experience in moving to the County and being stuck on dial-up, fiber connectivity, right next door. She shares with Chris the history of their recent efforts at bringing area communities together in the rolling hills and river valley of southeastern Minnesota and the resulting partnerships with local Internet service providers to do both fiber and fixed wireless projects. Chris and Barbara end the conversation by briefly discussing the recent rural digital opportunity fund auction and the adverse consequences it's having in places like Le Sueur. Now here's Christopher talking with Barbara.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-reliance in St. Paul, Minnesota. And today I'm very excited to be speaking with another Minnesotan, working in a community that really has figured out a smart approach that we want to share with other people. We're going to speak with Barbara Droher Kline. Welcome to the show.

Barbara Droher Kline: Thank you. Good to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And I realize as we were talking, I didn't ask you how I should identify you. So you are Le Sueur concerned citizen, I suppose. But what's the proper way to identify you?

Barbara Droher Kline: Well, in my role now is I'm a consultant to the County. I started out as a volunteer and I became a consultant to them earlier this year.

Christopher Mitchell: And what is your background?

Barbara Droher Kline: Grew up in Minnesota, moved to California for 16 years, worked in child welfare, burnt out completely, came back. And I was the Le Sueur County human services director for three years. Worked in Hennepin County for eight years, moved back to Northern California and moved back here five years ago to intentionally moving to Le Sueur County and now I'm self-employed as a financial advisor.


Christopher Mitchell: So, Le Sueur is the proper way to pronounce it?

Barbara Droher Kline: Yes. Well, no, it's a 50 50 split [crosstalk 00:02:46] both ways.

Christopher Mitchell: So it's Missouri, Missouri.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yeah, exactly.

Christopher Mitchell: So I think the claim to fame that we want to talk about is how you've gone from a county that has been among Minnesota's worse connected, not the absolute worst, but pretty close to it, to developing plans, having multiple projects now and being on the way to being one of the better connected counties it seems like. So paint us a little picture of what it was like when you moved back to the county.

Barbara Droher Kline: So we renovated an old farm house and it was bank-owned. It was pretty tough shape and actually the Minneapolis Tribune did a great article about the renovation and it wasn't until we moved in and I started to set up my office here, that I realized that I had Frontier dial up for Internet. My plan was to have a home office, and that's how I got started with looking at the Internet issues. I was surprised to find that my neighbor had Bevcomm fiber and I, because I was in telephone territory of Frontier, I had dial up.

Christopher Mitchell: Bevcomm is a local provider that operates in a number of different communities, but it's a Minnesota company.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yep. They're the telephone company here initially and they've now branched out about another telephone company. They're primarily Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Christopher Mitchell: And the County is primarily kind of AG producer areas is pretty low density, has got several population centers that are pretty small. And if I remember correctly, it's got some nice rolling hills and a valley. Is that right?

Barbara Droher Kline: Yes. Rolling hills, lakes. The Minnesota River runs down one side of it. All of it are big challenges when you're doing broadband planning. Some of those concepts are more expensive to dig in than others.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. Sometimes people have a perception that every place is flat, like the alluvial plains in Louisiana and it's not the way it is up here.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yep. Yep. Yep. Well, and then the other part of that challenge is that our county seat is Lee Center, which is the middle of the County. It's very small and so the drift is outward as opposed to inward and that's one of the things we're working on with our planning processes. How do we learn more about ourselves as a county because the messaging is all from the outside, not from the inside?


Christopher Mitchell: What does that mean exactly?

Barbara Droher Kline: So the northern part of the county listens to Twin Cities radio TV, the southern part of Mankato, the western part, maybe [Ferrovial 00:33:59] and some drift to Northfield. And then the western part is much more of a no person's land.

Christopher Mitchell: Sure. It can be difficult to get people on the same page then.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yes. So something can be happening five miles from you, and you have no idea about it because we don't have any internal communication capacity at this point where it's something that we're working on.

Christopher Mitchell: So, let's talk about then, you have dial up. You know that you have decent access very close to you. What do you do about it?

Barbara Droher Kline: Part of my background is that as a volunteer in California, I was a community organizer. I lived in a Canyon, three miles down a dead end road into the park system. And I organized my neighborhood and my community, worked with the county to do fire mitigation work. And when I came back here and I saw this split, I thought, I can take that same approach and do some organizing here maybe. And that my county commissioner was my horse veterinarian and I started to talk with him about it. I ran for office in 2018, lost, did a lot of door knocking, met a lot of people and heard healthcare, broadband, healthcare, broadband, healthcare, broadband. So even before the election, mid 2018, I went to my commissioner. I said, "Let's just start working on this. Let's just." So that's how we got started with the [Blandin 00:06:44] Foundation. Wrote our first grant proposal in May 2018. And from there we've been on a path of organizing. It's really been great.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's talk about, we'll take them chronologically, one at a time. And the first one I believe is the Bevcomm, a partnership that I found pretty interesting. So let's step through that then. How did that come to be?


Barbara Droher Kline: Well, early in 2018, I went to a Region 9 planning conference and Region 9 is organizing a rural group that supports counties in the work that they do in very many different aspects. And that's where I met Bill Eckles from Bevcomm. That's where I met the Jaguar Metronet people. That's where I met the Blandin people and started realizing how the telephone territories were barrier to getting broadband, which was just fascinating to me. And I also met Eckles and found out that, and talked to him about being a quarter mile away and we pay to have it run to our house. We were very lucky it was that close that we could afford to do that. But I just couldn't give up on all the things that I'd heard about the limitations and the stories and the... So we kept working on it, starting in the summer. Blandin sent to us a consultant, Bill Coleman, who gave us the background of what to do, how to start thinking about how to start working together.

Barbara Droher Kline: We had a provider meeting. All the providers that were fiber providers we met with, and some of them told us we're not going to do anything and don't come into our area. If you do a state grant, we'll challenge you. So not going to do it, not going to work with you, but we'll challenge you. So it took some work to get Bevcomm to agree to do that first boarder to border application and challenge Frontier. Was the territory that he was challenging. It makes no sense to me. It's a telephone area. So what? You have to do a formal challenge because they have rights to do broadband because they were your telephone company? But nobody's able to change that. So that's the world that we're in.

Christopher Mitchell: State after state, believe me. It's rigged in favor of companies that have refused to invest for decades. They get the rights to try to prevent others from building a network that they will not. It's infuriating. And you're right. You said it exactly right. That's the world we live in.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay. So, you're able to partner then with Bevcomm to go to the state for the border to border grant, which often provides as much as 50% of the money for a project. How did that actually work out?

Barbara Droher Kline: Well, let me back up for a minute and add that that fall, the fall of 2018, five of us went up to the Blandin Conference and we were locked in a windowless room for two days, learning about feasibility studies and Bill Coleman was actually really upset because we only had four people. So I asked Bill Eckles to join our group and he did. So we were locked in a room for two days too. Because they're a small family Minnesota business, he's been a terrific resource to us and consultants us about not just what his companies do, but other companies are doing and stuff like that. So we've had a great partnership with him from the fall of 2018. So coming into 2019, we looked at what was possible and actually Jaguar, which is now Metronet also did an application, but we worked really hard with them on mapping out the area, which the first applications were the northern part of the county. I want to add that it was John King, my horse veterinarian county commissioner, who said, "We're going to go out and talk to the township."


Barbara Droher Kline: So part of making ours a strong application was local funding. And so John got into his head that we were going to go out to the townships and have them pay back half of the dollars that the counties were going to put in and they unanimously agreed to that. It was two townships at that time. And well, most houses are hooked up this spring, the county will get a bill at the end of this year. And the townships are going to pay half of that back. Getting that local engagement, it was not only key to a stronger application, but it also got everybody buzzing at the local level. And so we're at a point where every township in our county we've talked to about broadband and they're connected.

Christopher Mitchell: Is it correct then that what happened is that the state effectively is paying half of the price of that project?

Barbara Droher Kline: Yes.

Christopher Mitchell: And then Bevcomm is paying about 25% and then the county is paying 25%? like, How does the non-state part break down?

Barbara Droher Kline: I don't have the exact numbers. The county share is less than that. I would say that the county share is like maybe 10%. And then Bevcomm. And then 50% from the state. And then the rest is Bevcomm. For the area that we're doing with the spread out and the costs, it was well worth. It's certainly is advantageous to us. But it wasn't any magic formula of percentage. It was, this is how much we can afford, figure it out from there. So for us it was 300,000 and 150,000 that will be paid back by the townships over 10 years, no interest.


Christopher Mitchell: Okay. So of the total project, the county's covering about 10% and half of that is coming from the townships?

Barbara Droher Kline: Correct? Yep.

Christopher Mitchell: That sounds like a very good partnership.

Barbara Droher Kline: It was terrific. Interestingly though, there were some households taken out. The first group was taken out because of CAF to funding. There's a small pocket there of dollars that were awarded to one of the big companies or CAF to funding. Those households were taken out.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm trying not to grind my teeth right now.

Barbara Droher Kline: I know, I know. And they still haven't done anything. And we talked to them. They're saying two years out, they're going to spend that money. They haven't done anything. And then the other piece was another telephone company. There were households at the very edge of that planning group, that was a different telephone company that had publicly told us, "Don't challenge us. We will challenge you back." So we dealt with the Frontier telephone. So there were households there that were not included because they were in a different telephone district and it would've made sense to have included them, but we could not.

Christopher Mitchell: So then I want to move on and I want to know, you've mentioned Jaguar a couple of times, as well as Metronet. And for folks who aren't aware, Jaguar was a fantastically innovative company that invested in a lot of places in rural Minnesota. Donnie Smith, a friend of mine was a principal of it. And they were purchased recently by Metronet, which is a building out in some areas of Southern Minnesota, which is increasingly a national company doing broadband. So, they're one of the partners that we'll be talking about and you may hear both of those names, Jaguar and Metronet.

Christopher Mitchell: But so let's talk about then the pandemic comes and just talk about how you were prepared for it. Not that you knew that it was happening obviously, but what things you had done so that when Cares Act money became available, you already knew and the county already knew what they could put together.

Barbara Droher Kline: Well, there were two things that happened in the beginning of last year. We initially planned to do as our new boarder to border application with both Metronet and Bevcomm and we were going to write the grant proposal so that we wouldn't have the two competing against each other. But with Jaguar being sold to Metronet, there was too much uncertainty there. So we split it back out into two [inaudible 00:00:14:32] and they work together in terms of parallel map planning and stuff, but we didn't do a joint one. That was the beginning of 2020 is to have that joint meeting of what we were going to do and what we're going to look at. Both providers in the same room with us.

Barbara Droher Kline: And then in February, we all got in a car and we drove up north with Landon. And this time we became a Blandin broadband committee. And that means a $75,000 grant to work on broadband enhancements and use them, supporting communication issues using the technology. And the pandemic hit but we in June had a virtual meeting with 70 people that, all over the County, looking at all these issues. And we came up with projects that we were going to be working on, Internet for the fairgrounds, improving the communication from the county of all these [inaudible 00:15:29] projects.


Christopher Mitchell: I feel like we should also note Blandin is not something that many people outside of Minnesota are aware of unless they work in philanthropy because Blandin Foundation works to build a stronger, greater Minnesota. It is a wonderful foundation that has worked for the focus on broadband for many years and I should say that they've given us funding. In the past we've received grants. So, just being transparent about it, but I've found their work, Bill Coleman's work with the communities and I will just note that in my experience at their conferences, they are usually in beautiful settings with nice windows that are distracting. So I would say that we shouldn't give the idea that all of their events are held in windowless areas.

Barbara Droher Kline: Only when you're talking about feasibility studies.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. Right. That's the area where they don't want you distracted at all, I guess.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: So you were describing how you were using the Blandin funds and then the pandemic hit.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yep. So we had our projects lined up from our broadband planning and as I said, I had been a department head. I ran a large department in Hennepin County. So this $3.7 million comes in and I have a good relationship with all the townships now and the county board and city administrators... So the county administrator asked me if I would work on the Cares Act budget, if I would create the planning group, work with the departments, come up with ideas about how we could use the Cares Act dollars, not just for broadband, but for other kind of infrastructure things. And I had started as a paid consultant at the beginning of the year. So we switched off of Blandin funding and switched on to Cares Act funding in terms of my time and some other consultants that we brought in. Another key consultant in that was Carl [Mink 00:17:17] from the Tri-Cities schools, who is their IT guy, has been involved with our Blandin work all along.


Barbara Droher Kline: And he came in with the eyes on, what can we do between July 1st and December 1st to build out our infrastructure better and address some broadband issues? So it was hard running every day, talking to broadband providers and seeing what we can do. And one very cool thing that worked out is, I mentioned that some of the other telephone area households that couldn't get included in our border to border grant, we use Cares Act dollars, and we got 12 more households hooked up. Bevcomm's out there digging fiber running by those houses. And the township used their Cares Act dollars for 12 more homes to be added into the original proposals. So that was very cool. There's a lot more out there that need to be added in, but we got that low hanging fruit done.

Barbara Droher Kline: We worked very closely with Metronet and because of capacity issues, that was really all Bevcomm could do with us because they were already out digging for a border to border stuff for this past year.

Barbara Droher Kline: So with Metronet, we ended up working with them and giving them just over $500,000 and they put their own money into, and we ran fiber from Rice County straight across the middle of the county between north and south, all the way over to St. Peter. We dug fiber. It was in the ground by December 1st. They're now in the processes of building that out. And we also did some towers. We haven't done power fixed wireless before. And as you know, there's huge reliability issues, but we found a provider that had been doing some work in Scott County and worked with them to do some towers around the county. And that was up and the device is up on the towers by December 1st.

Christopher Mitchell: I believe that was NetWave. And when you say towers, you're also including water towers and a sheriffs tower I noticed.

Barbara Droher Kline: Yes. Oh, let me add one more thing about what we do with the Cares Act dollars. So a part of our planning group was emergency services. We got cradlepoint devices for all the emergency, the fire, ambulances, and we got Chromebooks for them so they can be out in the county having access to the Internet. And we bought three years ahead of the technology to pay for the service itself. But we got cradlepoint devices on emergency vehicles. We've spent 32,000 getting Internet access to our fairgrounds, which we'll be using for vaccinations come spring. We did some campgrounds. We just really stretched our minds and did everything we could by December 1st in the ground to get better access to the Internet out there and that. And we also bought some emergency vehicle devices for people with a heart attacks and respiratory issues.


Barbara Droher Kline: We bought two expensive devices, trained people on it. We just hit the ground running as a group. Met every week. Actually, our last meeting was last week. We met every week figuring out what could we do and using the relationships that Carl had from TCU to work with some of these providers and built out as much as we could in that short amount of time.

Christopher Mitchell: What is the cradlepoint device?

Barbara Droher Kline: That's a Carl Mink question. It's a device that you put on top of emergency vehicles so that you have Internet access for your Chromebook.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay. Boat landings. You didn't mention boat landings as one of the other spots, right?

Barbara Droher Kline: We tried.

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, that didn't happen?

Barbara Droher Kline: We got an issues with the DNR. We got into issues about electricity.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm going to talk to my wife about that. She works for DNR.

Barbara Droher Kline: Oh yeah. We tried, we tried. Couldn't get it done. But we did get some of the county parts of them.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the lessons that I took away from this and learning about what you've done is that something, the classic, whenever you hear anyone say that, "This thing that was unexpected proves everything that I already believed. You should be suspect." But one of the things that you and I mentioned leading up to this is that you were prepared for this and I feel like one of the lessons that communities should take away is that even if they don't know where money's going to come from, even if they don't have a state program like the border to border fund, they really need to have these conversations and be prepared because you had a structure that could act immediately, as soon as those Cares Act dollars were made available. And so I'm curious if you can just reflect on that a little bit.

Barbara Droher Kline: It's a big learning to me is to think outside the box and help bring in minds that are outside the box. I think that Carl and my presence in particular and our leadership, because we have a different view of the world, made such a difference. Most counties looked at it talking from the department perspective, what each department does. We did an entirely different budget based on what the community needs were in figuring out and didn't do departmental budgets. We did a Cares Act budget that was based on what the community needed, and then backed out into departments. It's challenging to find leadership and people that can come in and bring those ideas in, but boy, hook people up. And we've met a lot of people virtually on our Zoom call last June, that we're going to be following up with this spring to continue with the Blandin work.


Barbara Droher Kline: Because the people we met on the Zoom calls were amazing. Professors and doctors and lawyers and architects and tech people, and a giant firecracker factory that's over by my house, as it turns out. I didn't know it was there. So that mapping of who's out there and what's available to you is really part of it. In fact, one of the things we're going to be doing next is we're talking with the Southeast Minnesota Initiative Foundation about doing an asset map of our businesses in the county. We don't have a County Economic Development Authority. We have city ones. And so that's the next phase of this too, is funding these small businesses and the needs that they have. And we can do a better job of mapping out who's here and then bring in those people in and hearing what they have to say and getting new perspectives is really, really important.

Christopher Mitchell: How did the professors and the firecracker folks, how did you all become aware of each other?

Barbara Droher Kline: Under Blandin. Again, we did our first survey. We started our survey. We've now had survey results from almost a thousand households in the county and I did a constant contact list of emails from that and send out regular communications. That's probably the biggest one, but also we did some ads and we did some Facebook stuff. We did a lot of networking, trying to hook up with people, but it was challenging getting the word out that first time.

Christopher Mitchell: I think the last question, this line, it goes back to even before you had the Blandin funding, when you were starting to reach out you said you reached out to your horse vet and county commissioner, and if he'd not been receptive, what do you think you would have done? Or what can folks do in terms of before money's available to try to get people together to talk about this? What advice do you have for them?

Barbara Droher Kline: Keep talking. Our county commissioner was very open to this too and the other commissioners were open to it. I think that asking elected officials and government people to step up and listen, and I think it's doable. We had 100% support on all of our broadband work from every commissioner, every city administrator, every... It's also building those relationships. Every township has voted unanimously to support this stuff.

Christopher Mitchell: That's a big deal. There's not a lot of unanimity in townships from what I've seen. It's impressive. It doesn't just happen. So it shows you how important this is, how it cuts across political lines, but please go ahead on with the Cares Act.


Barbara Droher Kline: So, the Cares Act comes and the townships got $277,000 in our county. And so first thing I did in July is go out to all the townships and, in some instances, give them the piece of paper to sign the request for the funds. And then I sent it in because the Internet technology capacity to do some of this work is very challenging in some areas. And I know that in Blue Earth County, a lot of the townships didn't even apply. They went out and talked to them, and this was advice of our emergency person. She said, "Take the piece of paper out there and have them sign it. Send it in." The capacity for non papers stuff is challenging. I think we got $250,000 of that back for broadband.

Barbara Droher Kline: So it was because we had those initial conversations February each year, not last year, this year, but February the year before I had talked to the township officials group when they met in the county, we talked about broadband. So it's laying groundwork all the time for this connectivity, but all the townships stepped up and sent the money to the county for broadband work.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's finish up with the disappointing news, the latest news, which is that, the latest round of Minnesota's border to border grants, you are not listed unexpectedly because it sure looked like you had a very promising application or two. And what happened there?

Barbara Droher Kline: So we had two applications in, and it was building on the border to border grants last year. And ironically, it was building on the Cares Act dollars that laid that broadband fiber. It was building out on that $500,000, the broadband fiber. And I have been worried about RDOF since I first heard it because our CAF 2 experience wasn't good. CAF 2 was what, four years ago now and that money has yet to be spent in our county.


Christopher Mitchell: And just for people who are a little bit newer to this, these are both programs from the federal communications commission that where folks in Washington, DC figure out how to spend money across the country without much regard for what folks there want. And so they gave in the Connect America Fund, which we call CAF, they gave a lot of money to the biggest carriers in order to have them upgrade to service that we don't even consider broadband. And in some cases they didn't even do that from, what we can tell. And then that program was replaced, even though money's still going out the door for it. That program has been replaced by a program called RDOF, which is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which was an auction in which anyone could participate. And many of us are deeply disappointed and concerned with the results. But one of the things to note is that once again, you have communities like yours where you've done a lot of organizing, you have strong preferences, you've worked out partnerships and your voices were totally ignored in Washington, DC and that is just frustrating.

Barbara Droher Kline: Had our applications been approved, we would have fiber going into the ground this spring for 500 more households. As a result, we have no idea when or if we'll ever be able to get funding for those areas. Both Bevcomm and Jaguar begged them to apply. They looked at the census tracks. They didn't really make any sense from a business perspective. It was based on census tracks only, and huge chunks that don't even match up together. And then it's the low bid. So business wise, it didn't make sense to either of them to apply for the RDOF dollars, which is how we ended up with this two thirds of the rest of our county is going to LTD broadband and our current applications getting taken out of the mix because of it.

Christopher Mitchell: Now, LTD was the biggest winner of the auction nationally. It is a company that I guess I would say, if you look up their reviews, you find mixed reviews. They've mostly done wireless, and they are going to be making a historic leap to supposedly build fiber to the home to many different states, under a tight timeline with amounts of subsidies that many believe won't work because it's just too low. So there are a lot of questions. This award could still be reversed by the FCC if they don't find that they believe this company could handle it. But if the FCC moves forward with this, those areas of your county that you had a provider lined up for... Wow, you heard that. My beagles are saying, "Hi."


Christopher Mitchell: If the FCC moves this award forward, the network in your area would not have to be completed until about seven years from now. The money will start next year. They'll have six years to get to 100% of addresses. And I mean, the fact that that's even under consideration again, is just all mixed up, and this is a real big problem. So just again, infuriating at the way this program has been designed and it really pulls the rug out from under your feet.

Barbara Droher Kline: My preference would have been if the state of Minnesota had fought hard with the feds and said, "Take those census tracks out that are in these border to border applications so we can move in and give us the money or take it back." It would have been a drop of a bucket of the $1.3 billion in this grant. It would have been so little to have taken off our census tracks. And I just think they should have fought hard with the feds to take those census tracks out and let these applications go through this year and figure it out down the road.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I think it's not too late. It's not too late. I hope that Senator Tina Smith and Senator Klobuchar will fight hard because they could still say, "Disallow these areas. We've got this problem solved here." The FCC, I think should be able to make a number of changes if it had the political desire.

Barbara Droher Kline: But the awards for last year were announced yesterday and we're not in them. So we're out for this year.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. That's a disappointing end. But at the same time, you've accomplished a lot. There's a lot of people who would be very thrilled to be in the position that you are and I hope that we find a resolution to this that doesn't involve waiting for seven years to then say, "Okay, well, that didn't work. So what are we going to do now?" Because that means basically waiting until 2029 to get these places connected well, and that's not a possibility. We need to do better than that.

Barbara Droher Kline: Well, and let me add that, so what does that mean for our planning for this year? Who knows? But there are areas where we're organizing 15 households to connect up to that fiber from [inaudible 00:31:56] and they pay part of it and the owners pay part of the township. We're looking at adding to the... whatever we can, wherever we can in some small areas, at least the patchwork in the meantime. And we'll look at what's not are RDOF and what's left. I don't know if it's doable or not. We'll try to fit in those. You've seen those census check charts. They're horrible to try to figure out anything from that. It makes no sense that they're doing this by census track, but we're going to look at what's left, who is out there that we could organize even as a neighborhood and work with the township to get more areas added in like the 12 that we added in with the Cares Act in a different telephone area.


Barbara Droher Kline: So losing his border to border grants this time is just really excruciating. We would only had about a quarter of our county would have been fiber to the door starting this year, this spring.

Christopher Mitchell: It's extremely disappointing, but I, again, I'll just say you've done great work and I have no doubt that you're still going to solve this a lot faster than some other places. So thank you so much for your time today.

Barbara Droher Kline: Thank you. Good talking to you.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That was Christopher talking with Barbara Droher Kline. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at Email us at with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR including Building Local Power, Local Energy Rules, and the Composting For Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at While you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount keeps us going. Thank you to Arnie Huseby for this song, Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons. This was episode 446 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Thanks for listening.