Wednesday, April, 20, 2011 marked an important day for northeastern Minnesotans. Ground was broken to mark the beginning of a three-year project to supply high-speed broadband access across eight counties and surrounding of the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. The project was funded with $43.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in conjunction with USDA Rural Development. The Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) in Mt. Iron, Minn. will oversee the project.
Senator Al Franken attended the groundbreaking and told the gathered media that creating rural broadband opportunities was a big part of the Recovery Act.
“It obviously will create jobs in doing this project,” Franken said. “It is also going to create economic development in the short run and in the long run.”
Rural Networks is supplying the fiber optics necessary to complete the project. The company is working with local northeastern Minnesotan sub-contractors, which will require eight crews consisting of 5-10 people along with support crews, comprising a total of approximately 90 jobs created for the 2011 portion of the project, and up to 200 jobs upon project completion.
The project requires 915 miles of fiber optic network stretched across eight counties. About 400 miles of network should be completed by early fall of 2011. The rest of the project will be completed sometime in late 2013.
“January of 2012 is when critical institutions, including educational institutions, health care facilities, state and federal institutions, and local network provider Frontier Communications can expect to be among the first to benefit from this project,” said Lyle MacVey, NESC’s Project Manager.
Frontier Communications announced at the groundbreaking that it is in the process of forming a contract with NESC to use more than 450 miles of the network. As a result, community members who utilize Frontier’s services will be among the first to enjoy access to the high-speed network.
The funding provided by the Recovery Act and Rural Development will make it so people in northeastern Minnesota have the same access to faster service as those in larger cities, making these rural communities more competitive.
“Rural Development is a large part of this project, and I have truly enjoyed working with the Rural Development representatives that help make this project reality,” expressed MacVey.