Minnesota's Dakota County community leaders are planning to expand their existing fiber optic network, reports Blandin on Broadband's Ann Treacy. She attended a recent County Commissioner's meeting in which commissioners approved $1.2 million to add another 500,000 feet to the network.
Dakota County plans to perform some upgrades in addition to the expansion. They hope to collaborate with municipal and state government as well as a local school district. In addition to connecting more public facilities, a key benefit of this expansion will be to improve traffic signals along several busy corridors.
Dakota County is taking advantage of transportation projects and its dig once policy to install conduit and fiber. This project will also add redundancy and capacity to the existing network and create potential connections to an industrial park. By sharing the cost of the expansion and the maintenance, each participating entity will see many benefits at a fraction of the cost from leasing from an incumbent provider.
The Dakota County Broadband Initiative recently began a campaign to approach local community leaders in order to offer info on the potential benefits of further leasing fiber to private businesses. Nearby Scott County, which offers connectivity to a number of businesses, has successfully used their fiber for economic development.
The SunThisWeek reported on a March Burnsville City Council meeting where Consultant Craig Ebeling spoke on behalf of the Initiative:
Private-sector telecom providers don’t have the capital to extend fiber widely, he said, echoing findings in the Design Nine study. Meanwhile, Scott County “smacked us in the face” with its fiber advantage, he said. It’s no time for a “hide your head” approach, [Council Member Dan] Kealey said.
“Shame on us for not being long-sighted enough to figure that out before,” he said.
The County has also realized that the network could be used to improve residential access. An Star Tribune article in March reported that only 64 percent of Dakota County homes have access to fixed broadband. As a response:
County officials are meeting with staff from local cities to come up with what they jokingly call “the mother of all joint powers agreements” that would guide growth of the fiber-optic network across the county.
“We’re not getting any help from the federal government. We’re not getting any help from the state government. So we have to do it ourselves,” [Deputy County Manager Matt] Smith said.
To learn more about Dakota County's publicly owned network and some of its benefits, read our 2014 report All Hands On Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access.