The National Broadband Plan (released in 2010) and the Minnesota Broadband Task Force report (released in 2009) that informed the Minnesota Broadband Law both promote public-private partnerships as a way to improve broadband expansion.
Minnesota has seen both sides of that coin so far — partnerships that has gone smoothly, resulting in progress, and where partnership has wavered, leading to stalled infrastructure developments.
In the last month, the Blandin on Broadband blog has highlighted several stories on efforts to improve broadband in various areas:
- Brainerd: Local newspapers published diverging editorials on broadband deployment in Brainerd. Northland’s NewsCenter’s editorial spoke about excitement building for the nearly 430 miles of fiber optic network cable that is underway in Brainerd. While the Brainerd Dispatch editorial was surprised that public money is going to build redundant networks.
- Cloquet Valley: Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative has implemented recommendations based on a feasibility study from U-reka Broadband. They are testing new satellite improvements and making plans for other options.
- Dakota County: Dakota County is detailing long term government plans for infrastructure construction, which they will share with utility companies in March 2013. It is an opportunity for interested utilities to talk to local governments about piggybacking their plans for construction. The goal is to plan to dig once and make room for plenty of conduit.
- Fergus Falls: Dave Bickett, from Park Region/Otter Tail Telecom, spoke at the Minnesota Telecom Alliance conference about Fergus Falls Forward, a partnership between local economic development efforts and the broadband provider. He detailed their success in promoting telework as a local economic development strategy.
- Goodhue & Dakota Counties: Goodhue and Dakota County officials are talking about joining together to purchase 44 strands of optical fiber that are being installed between Red Wing and Hastings. This would help further the multi-county network being developed by metro area counties and expanding to more rural places.
- Kanabec County: Kanabec County presented their broadband feasibility study to the community. It offers two options: one focused on a FTTP deployment and one focused on a fiber-wireless hybrid.
- Lake County: Lake Communications, Two Harbors and Frontier Communications are discussing ownership of utility poles and the issue of pole attachments as Lake Communication tries to strong fiber in the area. Frontier Communications apparently owns the poles, the county has been maintaining them and Lake Communications would like to gain access to them.
- Ramsey County: After working with a private company for three years, Ramsey County plans to reopen their RFP to deploy fiber to anchor institutions. Recently the St Paul Area Chamber has been involved with the process. Initially St Paul was also interested in working with Ramsey County; it sounds as if that part of the plan is also in question.
- Sibley and Renville Counties: Sibley County Commissions voted to discontinue their relationship with Renville-Sibley County Joint Powers (RS Fiber), leaving towns and Renville County to move forward with fiber to the home plans without them. They cited concerns with legal opinions and business plans based on low interest rates. Before the vote, dueling editorials had been published in local newspapers. After the vote, Sibley County farmers are considering options for a cooperative to move forward with a fiber to the farm plan. Preliminary remarks indicate that they may work with RS Fiber.
- Thief River Falls: Dick Sjoberg of Sjoberg Cable talks about how his company has partnered with local MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) efforts to offer reduced rate broadband connections to low income households in the area. It had been a project that brings together profit and nonprofit motives to provide a valuable service to residents.