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Continued: Lawmakers to propose $100M to bring broadband to the borders

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 26, 2014 - 11:25 PM

“I get about a movie a month,” said Brown, who lives outside Nashwauk. “We actually have arguments — is that 5-minute YouTube video worth it?”

In 2011, Arrowhead Electric Cooperative began building a high-speed, fiber-to-the-home network in Cook County with the help of more than $16 million in federal grants and low-interest loans.

It’s one of 23 counties where less than a fifth of households have broadband with download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, the task force report shows.

Without high-speed Internet, “the neglected, small-population community was really becoming isolated,” said Molly Wickwire, a subscriber accounts representative.

The cheapest monthly subscription for download speeds of 20 megabits per second will cost about $47.

So far, about 75 percent of 5,200 homes and businesses have asked Arrowhead to build the line to their property at no cost to them.

Building that kind of network — 431 miles of aerial and buried mainline fiber so far — without federal and local funding “just wouldn’t have been feasible,” Wickwire said.

McKeever, 45, recently took a laptop to Arrowhead’s headquarters to test the speeds she could soon get.

A document that at her home downloads in 30 minutes took just seconds.

She believes that with greater connectivity, people with cabins will extend their stays in the region — or even move there full-time.

“This is going to open up a huge opportunity for the county,” she said.

 

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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