Today the state of Minnesota released the list of Broadband projects that would get funded with the State of Minnesota Broadband Grant Program. Kandiyohi County was the recipient of two grants: CTC in the North and Frontier in the East. Below are a list of questions people have asked in regards to this news (Firebytes owner, Mark Boeschen, is a member of the Kandiyohi County EDC Broadband Committee and this is his interpretation):

Where are the projects located?

The CTC project is located in the northern half of Kandiyohi County. See map here: https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/assets/broadband/2016-ctc-kandiyohi-map.pdf
The Frontier project is located in the eastern half of Kandiyohi County. See their document here: https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/assets/broadband/2016-ftr-kandiyohi-map.docx

How much money was available from the State, and what does each project need to contribute?

Legislators approved a total package of $35 million for the entire state, $1 million which goes to the Office of Broadband. Each project was limited to a maximum award of $5 million and all projects had to have at least a 50% match.

Why were these two areas of the county chosen, and not the whole county?

First, each project had a maximum award of $5 million with a 50% match. Obviously, working out in rural areas is very expensive. A feasibility study was conducted in 2016 and projected it would take $60 million to complete Kandiyohi County alone.
Second, existing providers (Frontier, TDS, CenturyLink…) had the ability to assert that they would meet the state’s minimum standard for customers by 2019. If they asserted this, it would obviously hurt the chance of receiving the grant. The problem with this approach was that there was little consequence to those providers if they did not provide by 2019.
Third, bang for the buck. When completing a project like this, you want to be able to serve the most customers for the total amount available. After the first two caveats, this had to be considered.

How are these two projects in Kandiyohi County different?

The CTC project in the north consists of all fiber-to-the-premise. This means fiber optics will be laid to each premise in the project area.
The Frontier project is proposing a small amount of fiber-to-the-premise, with the majority being fiber-to-the-node.

Tell me more about Fiber optics and why it matters in these projects.

Fiber optic cable is the future proof way to transmit data. The expensive part is putting it in the ground. But once it is in, you have the ability just to change equipment on both ends to get more speed. Fiber-to-the-premise, or fiber-to-the-home means that the fiber originates at the beginning, and ends at your home. There is no conversion taking place. Fiber-to-the-node is different. With DSL, there are “nodes” located across the county. The closer you are to these stations, the faster DSL speed you are able to achieve. Frontier would run Fiber optic cable to these nodes to increase speed at the node, or create new nodes closer to customers. Customers within these areas would continue to use DSL connectivity.

How did the state determine who to give awards to?

State broadband maps are the biggest factor. These are maps with information, mostly submitted by providers, to determine who does not meet the state internet speed standard (currently 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up). The county maps are available here: http://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/maps/county-maps.jsp. These are the same maps everyone uses to determine the best location for their project.

They also scored according to a number of additional factors including financial match, number of drops, personal impact, economic impact, and cost per premise. In addition, the county’s public – private partnership with CTC, and work done prior in Kandiyohi County, including our WiFi hotspot project and Hack-a-thon, both contributed to the scoring. The last piece was promotion. The committee has put together a basic list to promote this new technology and help those unfamiliar with its abilities. Stay tuned for more on that.

When will these projects start?

The timeline is still being developed.

Who is putting up the 50% match?

In the Frontier project, Frontier determines this. For the CTC project, the Kandiyohi County board has committed to issue bonds to initially fund the project, with CTC paying it back.

How much will service cost?

Frontier will set their own price.
CTC has set an initial price for residential internet at 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload at $59.00 per month up to 1000 Mbps / 1000 Mbps at $300 per month.

I’m not in either of these projects and have terrible internet. How can I get connected?

Tell your legislators to put more money towards rural broadband funding!

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