Broadband effort moves toward finish

FAIRMONT — The Martin County Economic Development Authority on Monday discussed the progress of the county’s Rural Broadband Initiative.

The initiative, in partnership with Frontier Communications, has seen several project elements completed, including the submission and reception of permits, and installation and splicing of fiber and electronics.

According to information provided by County Coordinator Scott Higgins, the project is about 94 percent complete, based on the project schedule. There are also some project elements that are partially complete or in progress, including the installation and splicing of terminals, and customer cutover.

When asked about the 94 percent completion, Higgins said he was not given specific areas of the county where work was completed.

“They didn’t tell me where they were done,” he said. “They may have run the stuff (fiber) but maybe it’s not hooked up.”

Board member Elliot Belgard said one problem being encountered is that of people not knowing the price to have the fiber hooked up to their homes.

“I think they have a lot of it localized, but I think the problem is that they’ve got to tell somebody how much it’s going to cost before they hook it up; and I’ve still never seen any information on that,” he said. “I’m not going to call them and say I want the fiber-optics until they say here’s what it’s going to cost every month.”

The grant for the project includes funds for bringing the cable to homes, but the monthly cost of the service is what is in question.

Commissioner Richard Koons said he had heard about a woman in Sherburn who was given a price for 25 Mbps of service. She learned it would be cheaper to go off of an LTD tower.

“There’s people that work from home and that’s the issue, they have to have fast, dependable, robust internet service,” Belgard said. “The purpose of this was to get it out to people who work from home.”

When asked about bringing fiber to homes, Higgins noted that not everybody will necessarily be getting fiber to the home. He said the purpose is to bring up the speed for access.

He told the board he would seek more information about where fiber would be run to homes and how that process would work.

“There’s going to be a meeting in March to give an update,” Higgins said.