PRINSBURG — As has been the common theme over the past 18 months, residents in Prinsburg have grown to learn just how important high-speed internet can be. And like so many communities, the city has found what the local providers have to offer isn't enough.
"They are just not able to meet our needs," said Roger Ahrenholz, Prinsburg mayor, at Tuesday's Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Prinsburg is considered underserved by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, with available wireline broadband internet speeds of at least 25 megabits download and 3 megabits upload. However, that is below the state standard of 100 megabits download and 20 megabits upload speeds to be considered served.
"It is a digital world today," and cities such as Prinsburg need the internet speed to meet it, said Connie Schmoll, broadband consultant for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.
To try and bridge that gap and offer the higher speeds to residents, Prinsburg is partnering with Arvig Enterprises to construct a $1 million fiber-optic broadband system for the city. When complete, every premises within the city limits would have access to the state standard broadband speeds.
Arvig has committed to funding $450,000 toward the project, as well as providing all costs above $1 million. The city of Prinsburg will be using $45,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act economic stimulus funds for the project and will also be providing another $175,000 plus city legal and accounting fees.
"It falls in line with other projects we are looking at," Schmoll said of the cost.
Kandiyohi County will be funding the remaining $330,000 for the project through its own American Rescue Plan Act allocation. The County Board approved allocating the funds at Tuesday's meeting.
"Our board is very committed to broadband," said Commissioner Corky Berg. "We do want to see the whole county eventually get it."
The County Board has seriously been considering earmarking the vast majority of its $8 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation to broadband projects across the county. It has already approved funding for a few projects, including $1.3 million to a project that will expand high-speed broadband to Dovre, Mamre, St. Johns and Arctander townships.
"This is a prime time to get some infrastructure down, much needed broadband, because of the (American Rescue Plan Act) funds," Schmoll said.
Construction for the Prinsburg project is estimated to start in spring and be completed in December.
Over the next several months, Schmoll has been tasked to find as many broadband providers and projects as she can, to try and fill as many internet gaps as possible in the county. She has also been applying for large grants, such as the state's Border to Border broadband project and the National Telecommunications and Information Association grant.
"Get this (broadband) deployed throughout the county," Schmoll said.
The County Board will also continue to assist making the project possible, as it remains a priority.
"It is good to get moving on these projects," said Commissioner Duane Anderson.