Yellow Medicine County supports broadband study for unserved areas
GRANITE FALLS -- Concerned that rural areas of the county could be left behind, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners informally expressed interest this week in being part of a six-county broadband feasibility study.
GRANITE FALLS - Concerned that rural areas of the county could be left behind, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners informally expressed interest this week in being part of a six-county broadband feasibility study.
"If we drop this thing, guys, we're going to be an island in 10 years and (people will) look back on this thing and say what were they doing?'' said Commissioner Ron Antony during discussions at the board's meeting Tuesday in Granite Falls.
Finley Engineering of Slayton has offered to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of bringing broadband service to unserved rural areas in the six counties. The information will be developed for the individual counties, but by participating as a larger group, the costs for the study will be lower, according to information from Peg Heglund, Yellow Medicine County administrator.
Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties are looking at joining Murray, Pipestone, Lincoln and Lyon counties in the study.
The counties do not know what the study will cost at this point. The commissioners will need to formally approve being part of the study once the cost is known. The county is also seeking a possible Blandin Foundation grant toward its cost, according to Antony.
The commissioners noted that some neighboring counties, including Lac qui Parle, Swift and Kandiyohi, have recently seen success in obtaining grant funds toward projects to bring broadband service to unserved rural areas.
There are providers offering broadband service in communities such as Granite Falls, but options are limited in rural areas of the county, according to information provided at the meeting.
The challenge in bringing broadband service to rural areas is straightforward. The cost of building the needed infrastructure does not cash-flow in areas with large distances between residences and businesses, Dawn Hegland, executive director of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, told the commissioners.
Counties that have been able to achieve broadband service in rural areas have used a variety of strategies involving public support, she said.
The broadband study will help Yellow Medicine County identify the best options and the likely costs for bringing broadband service to the unserved areas, according to Antony and Hegland.
Antony pointed out that this information is essential if the county is to play a supporting role in a broadband project. "How do we decide if we step off that ledge without information?'' he said.
Along with interest in the feasibility study, the county is also taking other steps toward expanding broadband. It is working with the five counties in the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission to determine if there are ways the broadband systems serving public entities in the region could be developed as a "backbone'' to help serve businesses and residents too.
Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties are also hosting upcoming meetings to gather input from residents about their broadband needs and interests.