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Willmar City Council approves $42,000 contract for mapping broadband services throughout city

The city of Willmar will contract with Hometown Fiber to conduct an audit that will show site-specific internet infrastructure throughout the city.

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WILLMAR — The city of Willmar will soon have a detailed map of the current internet infrastructure throughout the entire city after the Willmar City Council on Monday approved contracting with Hometown Fiber to conduct an audit of those services.

Justice  Walker Willmar Planning Development
Justice Walker

The cost of the audit is $42,486 and will be paid from the Industrial Park Fund, since the industrial park will also be mapped, according to Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker.

The recommendation to conduct such an audit came from the Broadband RFP Selection Committee after it reviewed three broadband proposals and conducted interviews with the respondents.

The Broadband RFP Selection Committee was established by the Willmar City Council in July to review requests for proposals for internet providers interested in expanding broadband services to Willmar households.

The eight-member committee comprises two City Council members, four city staff and two citizens.

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The committee decided that the audit was needed in order to determine what its recommendation would be for broadband service providers, Walker told the council, noting it is also good information for him to know when talking to potential businesses inquiring about coming to Willmar.

Related:
Members of the EDC's Joint Powers Board and local leaders recently aired their frustrations with private entities and the government when it comes to making sure broadband is available to all households from border to border in Kandiyohi County.

Saying that he thought it was kind of an expensive map, Councilor Andrew Plowman stated he also thought it was worth it, just like having a shovel-ready industrial park has been worth it.

“Look at the development that’s going on out there. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think similar can be said for something such as a study like this that gives us better knowledge and needs analysis with these types of services,” he said.

Councilor Rick Fagerlie asked if the city is provided a map of what has been done already by broadband companies.

Walker informed the council that there is a map of excavation permits that cross city rights of way, and that there is information available at the Federal Communications Commission on a census-block level, but it does not mean that broadband made it to every doorstep on that block.

“The census block isn’t necessarily helpful when you are looking at site-specific data,” he said. “So what this would achieve for us is site-specific data instead of the census block level.”

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Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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