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Editorial: Time to sign up for broadband at connectctc.com

Home and business internet users in rural Kandiyohi County now have a significant opportunity to address their critical need for high-speed broadband access.

As Kandiyohi County Commissioners said this week: "The clock is ticking."

Kandiyohi County officials have partnered with Consolidated Telecommunications Co. for a $10 million broadband project to construct a fiber line to bring high-speed access to north central Kandiyohi County. This Kandiyohi County-Consolidated Telecommunications partnership would bring the high-speed access plus high-definition TV and phone services to homes and businesses.

Consolidated Telecommunications Co. has installed a high-speed broadband network in its Brainerd lakes service area. Families and businesses in those rural parts of central Minnesota now have suitable broadband access for their economic and educational needs.

Currently, the proposed Kandiyohi County project has reached 72 percent of the household/business sign-up goal of 800, but still needs another 220 households to sign up to reach the project's goal.

The sign-up goal must be reached before CTC can begin construction of their fiber lines in the proposed service area. The longer it takes to reach the sign-up goal, the greater the likelihood that the fiber installation may not be completed before the winter freeze, which will delay installation progress another year.

The Kandiyohi County broadband is fortunate to to have received state grant money this year through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The state's border-to-border funding is targeted primarily to rural areas that do not have high-speed access and where broadband installation is challenged by high costs due to sparse population.

The state grant for the county's project is $4.9 million.

If the Kandiyohi County project does not reach the initial sign-up goal, the state grant funding could move onto another community on the state's waiting list. Then Kandiyohi County broadband needs would likely move to the back of the line and prospects for future broadband improvements would be very poor.

If commercial broadband companies have not invested in broadband access for rural Kandiyohi County over the past quarter century of the internet era, why does anyone think these private businesses are going to invest anything soon or even in the next decade or quarter century.

So this Kandiyohi County-CTC project is basically the last best chance for developing high-speed broadband access in rural areas of the county. This is also a major economic development opportunity for the residents and businesses of our county.

Families, farmers and businesses would be able to have the necessary high-speed internet to provide adequate access to educational learning, business opportunities or information access. Such access will keep families and businesses here in Kandiyohi County, as well as draw new families and businesses to rural areas of the county.

In addition, high-speed internet can increase the value of real estate - home and businesses - in the county. Studies have indicated a 6 percent increase in housing values in homes with broadband access, according to Roger Imdieke, Kandiyohi County Board chairman.

All of Kandiyohi County has an economic stake in this broadband project. If this broadband project does not become reality, rural parts of the county would continue to suffer from lack of broadband access, which hurts economic, educational and residential activity in those rural areas. Rural broadband access today is critical, just as rural telephone access became during the mid part of the 20th century.

Broadband is a 21st century necessity for economic and educational access for businesses and families.

The Kandiyohi County project area is bounded by Willmar to the south, Spicer to the east and Sunburg and New London to the north. The potential clients in this area includes about 1,400 households, 150 businesses and four community anchor institutions.

To sign up, potential customers can visit connectctc.com and sign up for the broadband service. Residents are asked to make a $25 deposit to be applied to the first billing statement. The earnest money would be refunded if the project is not built.

The time is here and the sign-up deadline is just around the corner, so Kandiyohi County residents in the project area should sign up now.

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