Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "kandiyohi county"
Like numerous U.S. counties, large segments of Kandiyohi County, Minnesota (pop. 44,000) lack access to affordable Internet service at modern speeds. So like many underserved communities, the county—situated about ninety miles west of Minneapolis—is looking to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime collision of funding opportunities to help finance a massive fiber broadband expansion across numerous county townships.
A recent survey by the county unsurprisingly reveals that residents are greatly annoyed by the lack of affordable Internet access options, with 64 percent of locals saying they’re dissatisfied with the Internet service provided by regional monopolies.
Ten Projects on Tap
Hoping to address the shortcoming, Kandiyohi County and the City of Willmar Economic Development Commission have been working on ten different projects to shore up Internet access around the county.
Some of the proposed projects involve partnerships with national monopoly providers like Charter Communications, but others will involve the county and a local cooperative doing the heavy lifting. The county had hoped to fund the projects with a combination of subscriber fees, American Rescue Plan funds, NTIA grants, and upcoming Minnesota state grants.
The first major project closest to being “shovel ready” is a $10 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project in partnership with the Federated Telephone Cooperative of Morris. Federated is expected to finance twenty-five percent of the overall project, with new subscribers expected to pay about $1,250 per household to connect to the gigabit-capable network.
In an effort to improve local connectivity, Kandiyohi County will collaborate with a local cooperative, Consolidated Telecommunications Company of Brainerd (CTC Co-op). Kadiyohi County is in step with the increasing number of rural communities joining forces with cooperatives when big corporate providers find no reason to invest in less populated areas.
Keeping It Local
In early July, the County Board of Commissioners signed a letter of intent with CTC Co-op in order to start planning for a potential project. The move improves the county’s chances to obtain one of the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Program grants and motivates CTC Co-op to begin allocating some of its own funds toward a potential Kandiyohi project.
Kandiyohi County is home to approximately 42,000 people in central Minnesota and covers approximately 862 square miles of prairie. The region, filled with lakes, is a popular fishing destination. Like many places well known for outdoor recreation, residents and businesses can’t obtain the Internet access they need to keep pace with more populated areas.
Minnesota's Lac qui Parle County worked with the Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative when incumbent Frontier chose not to pursue a partnership. The county received funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) but did not have the expertise or resources to maintain or manage a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Farmers Mutual, who already had experience after deploying their own network, stepped in and by 2014 residents and businesses had access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. Read more about the project in our report, All Hands on Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Fiber Internet Access.
Rural Broadband Expansion Ignores Economic Development Potential in Minnesota - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 190
For years, many rural communities suffered from a broadband donut hole problem - the investment in better-than-dial-up was in the population center, leaving a donut of poor access around it. Now policy to reverse that in places like Minnesota is perversely creating the opposite problem, to the detriment of the entire community.
This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast we welcome back Dan Dorman, Executive Director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership. He is also a former legislator and current small business owner in Greater Minnesota. We discuss how this problem developed and where we see it happening before our very eyes. Though we focus on Minnesota, this issue is broadly applicable to all states.
We also talk about how Comcast lobbyists have cynically manipulated the program to prevent economic development or possible competition, despite the fact that Comcast serves practically no one outside of the metro region. Lisa Gonzalez and I predicted this problem in our paper from 2014, All Hands On Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access. Listen to Dan Dorman's last appearance, episode 136.
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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 Kathleen Martin for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Player vs. Player."