Board offers some details on networkAbout 15 Little Marais residents packed into their community club Tuesday for a Lake County Board of Commissioners meeting to hear what the county-wide broadband project is all about.
About 15 Little Marais residents packed into their community club Tuesday for a Lake County Board of Commissioners meeting to hear what the county-wide broadband project is all about.
Tim Nulty, chief executive officer for partner National Public Broadband, said there is a lot of paperwork to do, such as environmental impact statements, before any a cash flows because they have to follow a series of rules when working with the federal government. “The easiest part is building the network,” he said.
Lake County and eastern St. Louis County are expecting about $70 million in funding to install broadband service to every home in the area now reachable by electrical service. A federal grant and loan was formally approved last week for improved voice, data and video service via the internet.
The crowd asked NPB what happens if Lake County doesn’t actually receive the money once all the prep work is done. Representatives from NPB said that is a possibility – but a very unlikely one. They would have to almost work at screwing it up in order to not get the funds, NPB officials said, and no one who has been awarded funds in the past has had the opportunity taken away.
There is expected to be about $30,000 in costs accrued by the county for licenses and permits to get the network built. The county also needs to restart a contract with NPB – it was suspended with a lag in action on the project – that would pay the group about $16,000 a month for the services they provide. Before, they were collecting $6,500 a month. The funds the county would be paying out would be reimbursed through project funds.
If the funding were to fall through and a contract was renewed with NPB, the county would be on the hook for paying the group the $16,000 a month.
Nulty expected to see some funding in about six months. Once it’s received, he said it would take about a year for some of the network to be up and running. Everyone should have service in three years.
Gary Fields, chief financial officer for NPB, said the region will get fiber optic lines about a decade before St. Paul does, which makes the area “competitive with anyone in the world.”
Some in the audience expressed concern about how large an operation the network will become – about a third of the crowd said they would sign up for the service.
“We’re not going to take it public,” Nulty said. “We’re not building an empire.”
Others in the audience asked what happens when residents don’t want service from the county project. There is no tax questions because the operation is expected to run on revenues, not county taxes.
Fields said if the loan portion goes into default, the county could lose ownership of the network but service wouldn’t leave the area. Down the road, the county could choose to sell the network to a private business.
The network covers phone, Internet, and television services. The phone service does not include cell phones, but Nulty said they could have a wireless overlay for the fiber network, putting service in most populated areas of the county. Nulty said NPB hasn’t developed that idea yet but is interested in doing it.
Fields said 35 people will be hired for the initial phase of the project and there is a local preference for workers. About 550 out of 1,300 miles will be underground and lines will be redundant. It will also be an open access network, which allows companies to latch on to the network for a fee.