A small group of private and public representatives had the opportunity of meeting with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the Lac qui Parle County Annex Building and Multi Media Room (great facility for meetings!) in Madison yesterday. The Senator was interested in hearing about local broadband projects, uses, ideas and issues surrounding the utilization and access to broadband in the region.
Sen. Klobuchar started the meeting with the news that a Bill had just passed which called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to permit Universal Service Fund (USF) support for carriers that provide rural consumers with broadband-only services. (Reference Thune/Klobuchar Lead Letter to FCC on Rural Broadband information) – very good news!
It was interesting to hear from those around the table on the range of service availability for Broadband throughout our area. Although there are pockets of areas that are well connected, there are also areas with a great deal of need as noted from a Swift County Commissioner who told of a constituent who needed to climb part way up his silo (or take a drive down the road) to get even a cell phone connection. This same Swift County commissioner mentioned that some constituents claimed that their only internet was 56k dialup. In another example, a doctor was applying for a position at a local hospital and ultimately the doctor withdrew his application and the position is still vacant – the reason being the doctor’s spouse worked as a contract radiologist and could not move to the area because the internet capabilities would not support her business, which requires uploading and downloading of large radiology files. This group engaged in sometimes lively discussion while providing Sen. Klobuchar with the broadband picture from within our region. Attending from Big Stone County were Commissioner Brent Olson, Terry Ocana and myself, Vicki Oakes.
We are fortunate in Big Stone County to be beneficiaries of the Border-to-Boarder Broadband Development Grant which was awarded to Federated Telephone (information) in the first round of funding opportunities! (Thank you to the Big Stone County Commissioners along with Terry Ocana for their work and support – it was quite a process to make this happen! There was also a Committee of individuals which helped to lay the foundation for the funding application — with one of the Committee members, Don Lundell, who worked tirelessly to obtain the letters of support that were needed for the grant application – I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Don Lundell said that I should drop this off at your office”! Also, great job by the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (RDC) who was contracted by Federated Telephone to write the grant – the RDC has quite an expansive knowledge base to assist with many projects throughout our County and Region!)
For the Bike Path enthusiasts in our area that have been asking when the last mile of trail would be hard surfaced, you will be happy to know that although this was a broadband meeting, Sen. Klobuchar brought up the topic of our trail noting that this was a project that she had been looking into! (Thank you to Commissioner Sandberg and Ortonville Mayor Berkner for bringing the topic of the Trail to the Senator’s attention in a previous meeting held this year)