Connectivity

Internet Connectivity

Reliable and affordable internet (wireless or broadband), also known as e-Connectivity plays a fundamental role in our economic activity. More importantly, access to high-speed internet is vital for attracting and retaining businesses. It also helps support a larger population of workers choosing to telecommute from home and serves as a catalyst in fostering entrepreneurship and small business growth in rural parts of the County.

Internet connectivity acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural households, county services, schools, and health care facilities. The benefits are far reaching, which have been recognized not only at a national level, but also at the state. It is a state goal that no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second; and no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.



Policies

  1. Adopt a “dig once” approach to align efforts for the planning, relocation, installation, or improvement of broadband conduit within the right-of-way in conjunction with any current or planned construction, including, trunk highways and bridges.
  2. Facilitate the timely and efficient deployment of broadband conduit or other broadband facilities on County-owned lands and buildings.
Stearns County Broadband Study (2019):
In January 2019, the County engaged NEO Connect (NEO) to provide the County with the information needed to analyze, select and implement the best solutions to improve broadband connectivity across the study area.

“The Vision for the Broadband Feasibility Study states “All Stearns County residents will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

A summary of the study’s recommendations include:

  1. Implement broadband-friendly policies and ordinances in each of the cities, towns and counties to help reduce the cost of broadband expansion.
  2. Work with Stearns Electric and Great River Electric to streamline the permitting process and gain access to their utility poles. Continue discussions in perfecting easements for telecommunications use, joint builds and shared capital costs in building middle mile infrastructure and potential collaboration in reducing costs of deploying fiber.
  3. Follow up on discussion with the service providers for collaboration. Conversations regarding collaboration and partnership to share in the capital costs and leveraging grant funding are underway with several service providers.
  4. Leverage grant funding – namely, the MN Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program, the Economic Development Administration and USDA’s Rural Utilities Services Reconnect program to pay for a significant part of these builds. These grant programs will pay for 50-65% of the capital costs to build fiber to homes and businesses.

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