Some broadband money comingThe Northeast Service Cooperative in Mountain Iron will receive $43.5 million in federal funding for a project that will expand broadband capabilities in eight counties and more than 221 key sites, with the potential to stimulate public-private partnerships long-term across the region.
By: News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
The Northeast Service Cooperative in Mountain Iron will receive $43.5 million in federal funding for a project that will expand broadband capabilities in eight counties and more than 221 key sites, with the potential to stimulate public-private partnerships long-term across the region. It’s part of a federal push of $7.2 billion toward improving internet connectivity in rural areas of the country.
The United States Department of Agriculture announced last week that NESC’s “Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project” was one of the broadband infrastructure projects to receive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“We are thrilled to receive federal funding for this project that will provide a backbone of fiber and connect critical services in the region,” said project manager Lyle MacVey, who serves as director of information technology at NESC. “This will change the future of the region, offering broadband capabilities that have long been sought after.”
The project will make broadband services viable for a vast geographic region, serving approximately 221 sites along more than 915 miles of fiber. It would include nearly one-fourth of the state’s land mass and pass through eight counties in the region: St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, Carlton, Pine, Itasca and Aitkin.
The project will connect critical public sector agencies including public school districts, libraries, health care organizations, state, county, city and other municipal agencies.
It will make dark fiber, wavelength services available to private-sector providers in order to improve broadband connectivity in the unserved and underserved rural areas of northeast Minnesota.
“It’s an open network; it’s like Highway 61,” said County Commissioner Paul Bergman, who has working on getting broadband to Lake County with the help of National Public Broadband. “Anyone can use it.”
He said if the cooperative gets the backbone for a network in then Lake County could use part of the network for its project to bring broadband to all county residences served by current electric or phone lines. If the county gets in first, the cooperative would use its network for expansion.
Bergman said the Lake County project calls for more redundancy along with additions to the fiber backbone. There is a concern the NESC will run out of funds before it reaches Lake County after serving the Iron Range.
Paul Brinkman, executive director of NESC, said the project will enhance and strengthen the services that it provides to schools, cities, counties and agencies. He encouraged the public to visit the NESC web site, at www. nesc.k12.mn.us, to learn more about the projects.
Construction of the “Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project” would begin in 2011 and is likely to continue into 2012.
The Lake County board members will meet with Qwest President John Stanoch at 2 p.m. April 27 as part of its regular meeting at the courthouse. They will talk about the fiber line break in January and also what Qwest might bring to any broadband future in the county.