Kandiyohi County partners with Charter Communications on $800,000 broadband project to serve 350 homes and businesses – West Central Tribune

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SPICER — Kandiyohi County elected officials and Charter Communications officials on Monday symbolically opened an $800,000 project that Charter says will bring broadband internet service to more than 350 unserved rural homes and small businesses.

The event in New London Township was also a celebration of the partnerships between local elected officials and Charter Communications that made the project possible.

“As a company, we are very excited to (celebrate this partnership) and truly appreciate the partnership with Kandiyohi County,” said Amanda Duerr, Director of Government Affairs for Charter Communications.

The agreement between Kandiyohi County and Charter Communications includes nearly $240,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was guaranteed by the county, as well as more than $563,000 in private investment from Charter.

Charter operates in 42 states in the United States and has begun to focus on rural broadband over the past two years, according to Patrick Haggerty, senior regional director of government affairs for Charter Communications.

He thanked Kandiyohi County elected officials for making the project possible, adding, “I was sharing with one of the residents here that without the help and partnership of the county with regards to this project, all of this will not happen. would not produce with Charter. ”

According to Charter, construction began on April 1 and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022.

“We’ve learned a lot working with the county on this so that Charter can continue to work for investments like this in Greater Minnesota, where otherwise we just wouldn’t be able to do a project like this.” , Haggerty added, noting that he has gone from spending most of his time at the St. Paul Capitol lobbying to expand broadband to spending most of his time working with local communities to try to expand broadband.

“Charter really wants to be part of the solution to closing the digital divide. We are making significant investments here in Minnesota, where we serve approximately 170 communities and employ approximately 1,200 people,” he said. “We’re not the biggest supplier, but important, and Minnesota is really important to us.”

Mike Jorgensen, regional vice president of field operations for Charter Communications, speaks Monday, May 16, 2022, with those gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the broadband project that will serve more than 350 rural homes and businesses in the Kandiyohi county.

Jennifer Kotila / West Central Tribune

The digital divide is not just about access and building the broadband network, but also about affordability and helping people understand how it can improve lives, Haggerty added, noting a government program, Emergency Broadband Benefit, which allows people on low incomes to have access to broadband for free.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Roger Imdieke noted that gaps in rural internet access were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone had to work from home, go to school at home and consult his doctor at home. Better broadband access will allow young professionals to relocate to rural areas where they want to live and work, he added.

Imdieke told the story of Broadband Day on the Minnesota Capitol in 2020, which ended up being the same day Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared the COVID-19 emergency, and the idea that “can- be that the silver lining of this thing will be more aware of the shortcomings of broadband in our country, because this is the day we found out that the kids would be going to distance education, ”he said. “This what really happened is that the awareness has been good for all of us.”

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Rollie Nissen also spoke, sharing similar thoughts to Imdieke’s, but also commenting specifically on the current bird flu outbreak.

“I think when we had a meeting with Governor Walz and Senator (Tina) Smith and Senator (Amy) Klobuchar about the bird flu that’s attacking our turkey population, then we found out how bad broadband is. important to the turkey industry and especially during this time. outbreak, where it would be so much easier if they had good internet access to do telehealth and other exams for the turkeys so they could get the care, or maybe at least the vets could watch the herd and watch the symptoms without really going from barn to barn to barn and spreading it,” he said.

“Agriculture, as we know, also depends more and more on good internet every day with GPS farming and all the other things we have,” he added. “I’m just happy we’re moving forward.”

Mike Jorgensen, Regional Vice President of Field Operations for Charter, explained the importance of this project. “It really means new building from a broad horizon and actually expanding our rural footprint,” he said. “Last year, in 2021, if I’m right, we extended our coverage to 10,000 additional customers and businesses, and for 2022 we’re on track to exceed that.”

What once seemed impossible turned out to be a critical need during the pandemic, giving rural broadband projects momentum and funding, he added.

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