WILLMAR—Customer sign-ups are underway as Consolidated Telecommunications Co. begins laying the groundwork to bring high-speed internet to rural north central Kandiyohi County.
The last in a series of meet-and-greet sessions on the project will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Dethlefs Center in Spicer. Representatives of the company will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. There also will be a chance to sign up for the service.
Commitments from future users will be important to keep the project moving forward, said Andy Isackson, marketing manager for Consolidated Telecommunications.
“We need a commitment of 50 percent to make it financially viable,” he said. “We want to get people signed up and committed as soon as possible.”
The goal is to obtain commitments from about 800 homes and businesses within the neighborhoods targeted for the project, Isackson said. Consolidated Telecommunications currently is at 20 percent of the goal.
The company hopes to reach the target within the next few weeks, which would allow it to start placing orders for materials and get crews in place so that construction can be launched this summer, Isackson said.
Meeting the benchmark by mid- to late April “would be ideal,” he said.
The $10 million project is among 42 rural broadband projects statewide that were awarded grants this year through the Minnesota Office of Broadband Technology’s border-to-border program. Frontier also received a $1 million grant to expand broadband in southeastern Kandiyohi County.
The grant award to Consolidated Telecommunications Co. will cover about half of the project costs. The remaining local share comes from Kandiyohi County, which is issuing $5 million in tax abatement bonds this month.
The project will bring much needed broadband availability to a rural area that lacks service. The target area includes about 1,400 households, 149 businesses and four community anchor institutions in the north central part of the county.
Consolidated Telecommunications is conducting an engineering study that will help determine the final boundaries of the project. Homes that lie just outside the preliminary border could be brought into the project if it’s financially feasible and the homeowner commits to signing up, Isackson said.
“We might be able to loop in a few more that way,” he said.
There’s another incentive to sign up now: The company will waive installation fees during the initial deployment of the service.
Those who wait until after the project is complete can still obtain service but they will have to pay an installation fee.
The response to the project has been positive, Isackson said.
About 100 people attended the first two meetings in Spicer this past month, he said. “There was a lot of interest, a lot of great questions.”
Future customers also have the option of signing up online at the company’s website, www.join.connectctc.com.
West Central Tribune by Anne Polta