Improving Rural Broadband

By Robin Doege, President/CEO

Last year I wrote about TWEC’s desire to promote rural broadband in our service area. So, in 2016 the TWEC board commissioned a broadband feasibility study to determine what it would take to provide quality broadband service to all TWEC members. This feasibility study was made possible with a grant from the Blandin Foundation Robust Network Feasibility Fund.
TWEC electrically serves about 8,800 members in Todd and Wadena counties with a density of about 3.5 members per line mile. Approximately 4,200 of TWEC members do not have access to high quality broadband.
The TWEC broadband feasibility study results indicated:
• Approximately 4,200 TWEC members do not have access to quality broadband service.
• A fiber network buildout to TWEC’s unserved membership would require about 1,100 miles of main line fiber and 370 miles of service drop fiber.
• The average cost to build, per subscriber, is in the range of $11,000 to $17,000 per subscriber.
• The “all in” cost to provide quality broadband to unserved members in TWEC’s service area is between $40 and $50 million. This includes fiber installation, associated materials, and equipment.
The primary challenge for this project, like many others in rural Minnesota, is the sparse population of the areas to be served. Without significant grant funding, projects like this one in TWEC’s service area, are not possible.
With that said, TWEC will continue to promote rural broadband in our service area. We are encouraged by the rural broadband discussions, both at the state and federal levels. Like rural electrification, TWEC will continue to lead “a community in action” to make quality broadband service available to our members.

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