No word on county broadband fundingThe county may need broadband more then ever after last week’s fiber optic line outage.
The county may need broadband more then ever after last week’s fiber optic line outage.
Most area residents were without internet access and land and cell phone service for about 12 hours, which could be avoided with a publically backed broadband fiber optic network with redundant lines for backup use.
Lake County is still waiting on whether it will get funding for its broadband project that would connect homes and businesses on the electrical grid with television, internet and phone services.
Federal stimulus money has been applied for but no word has reached county officials. It is expected any time.
At a Lake County Board of Commissioners meeting last week, Gary Fields of National Public Broadband, who the county is working with on the plan, said he hasn’t heard back from the Rural Utilities Service on whether it will get funding for the project.
“Some rejection notices have been sent out [to other groups trying to get funding],” Fields said. He said the rest of notices should be sent this week.
But if we do get it?
“We will have redundant fiber in the network,” Fields said. He said if a situation like the one last week arises, service would be rerouted.
Commissioner Paul Berg-man mentioned the possibility of having mega data storage centers – where computer information would be stored – built in Lake County for companies like the Mayo Clinic. Each facility would be between 300 and 400 acres and if the project were to reach full capacity, it could turn into 300 jobs, he said.
Bergman said having a new network is key. “It’s not as enticing without fiber optics,” he said.
If Lake County is not on the list for funding, there is a second round in March.
“If we don’t get it in the first round, we will miss this year’s construction season,” Fields said.
The board is seeking about $22 million for a loan and $11 million in grants, plus $4 million from county revenue bonds for the project.
If the county were rejected, it will involve St. Louis County in a second proposal because it agreed to service in an eastern strip, including Hoyt Lakes and Ely. Duluth Township would also be included.
Fields said he didn’t know if including them would help with getting funding, but it would make for a better project.
The Northeast Service Cooperative is also looking for funding from RUS. It plans to bring broadband to schools and libraries all over the Iron Range, but not to homes.
Public, private plowing
There was a discussion Tuesday about county plow drivers doing work on private driveways in Finland. There is a plan in place for county employees to plow out driveways in case of emergencies, but some say that’s not the case. “There’s a perception of abuse,” said commissioner Rich Sve. “If we can get that situation resolved, then I don’t have a problem with it.”
Residents can pay $12 to get on a list for emergency plow service. People would then call if they needed plowing and they would be charged.
After a study found that half of the septic systems in the Larsmont area were failing, the county board discussed how to deal with the situation and ideas such as getting low interest loans for residents to fix their septics or possibly get grants.