Le Sueur County Broadband Initiative
This is an economic development effort for Le Sueur County residents and businesses. State broadband maps tell us that finding good Internet service, if at all, is a challenge for many residents. The lack of this service means students have trouble completing school work and seeking future opportunity, small businesses have trouble connecting with customers and vendors, farmers have less efficient operations, home sales and development lags, and options for telemedicine are closed.
The county board has enabled a broadband task force to recommend strategies for addressing this situation. The taskforce is a volunteer group of citizens who have been working together for over three years to bring enhanced Internet connectivity to the county.
Currently the taskforce is receiving guidance from the Blandin Foundation of Minnesota. Le Sueur County is a Blandin Broadband Community for 2020 and 2021, as the taskforce continues to work with providers and citizens to improve reliable Internet service throughout the county.
The term broadband typically means the home or business is served by high-speed Internet access that is always available to the user and is faster than dial-up technology. This service can be delivered by these technologies: Satellite, wireless techniques, fiber, a cable modem, digital subscriber line (DSL) or over power lines (BPL).
Getting Broadband to You
The taskforce’s ultimate goal is to have fiber running to every doorstep in the county. However, topography, soil types, rivers, lakes and wetlands and trees make this goal difficult to attain. So, while working with willing Internet providers, the taskforce is making steps to provide broadband using a hybrid approach and employing fiber and wireless to reach as many addresses as possible. This is a multi-year effort.
Construction cost is a huge factor and funding has been provided by the county, federal CARES Act dollars, the providers working with the county, and from Minnesota’s DEED Border to Border grant program. Cost also becomes an access issue for the user. Once Broadband is available to an address doesn’t mean it is affordable for that household or business.
It’s a Complicated Landscape of Service Providers
Broadband deployment competes with roads and other needs for infrastructure funds in each state. Closing the digital divide requires dedicated and adequate capital. In sparsely populated areas, it is not economical for private industry to deploy broadband infrastructure. Minnesota has made Border to Border grant funds available. However, for new broadband providers that want to cross into territories already “held” by current vendors to provide service, there is an appeal process for the current vendor to dispute the action. Because of established territories, it is difficult to find providers who are willing to work around these barriers.
Improvement so far
The great news is that progress is being made! Prior to 2020, the Task Force had been at work talking with telecommunications providers who have territory in the area to see if they would be willing to work with us on improving broadband. Because of the incredible surge in demand for internet access due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Task Force was able to make tremendous strides by taking advantage of federal CARES Act funding to help pay for a number of improvements. This and early next year, addresses in several townships will gain fiber or wireless access through CARES Act-funded work for the first time and several public Wi-Fi points are being installed. Click on those links to see where service is being added.