Townships residents with limited or no broadband internet access may soon get online thanks to a cost-sharing program between Scott County, Shakopee and several townships.
Residents in the Louisville, Jackson, Spring Lake townships, the southwestern portion of Shakopee and eastern portion of Sand Creek are expected to have access to high-speed wireless internet available no latter than May 8, according to a recent statement from the county.
All residents in the new service area can receive internet capable of 30 Mbps, or several times the speed needed for high-definition video streaming. About 2,400 homes will receive internet with an upload and download speed of 100 Mbps.
The service will be provided by Netwave Broadband, a subsidiary of Access Network Inc. and an internet provider in the Blakeley, Jordan, Belle Plaine and western Sand Creek area. It’ll come at a discounted price. Netwave’s starting package will now be offered at $149 for broadband installation and $49 dollars a month for a 40-Mbps package without a router.
The increased access is the result of a fast-tracked partnership between the county, townships and Access Networks. The Scott County Board of Commissioners vote on March 31 to enter into an agreement with Access that allowed the company to install equipment on existing county-owned towers in Jackson Township and Spring Lake township, extending Wi-Fi access in some of the county’s underserved and unserved areas.
Community Services Director Cindy Geis told county commissioners the endeavor normally would have taken three to six months to complete but will be done in three to five weeks as a result of the increased need for residents to work and go to school online.
“We as the county have, in my mind, a responsibility that if we can get them service, we need to help do that,” Geis said.
The county, townships and Access split the cost of the project three ways under the agreement. According to county documents, the cost of the equipment and work on each tower is about $105,000. Geis said that several of the townships are pursuing further cost-share agreements with neighboring cities for their portion.
“It isn’t just petty cash,” Geis said during the meeting.
Commissioners emphasized that the project continues previous investments the county has made to improve internet access for residents.
“This isn’t new or unusual,” Commissioner Barb Weckman Brekke said. “These are areas that just haven’t gotten served by that investment yet.”
Commissioner Tom Wolf said he’s long fielded comments and concerns about internet access in the county, but the coronavirus had now brought those conversations to a head.
“I look at it a little bit like electricity nowadays, this internet stuff,” Wolf said. “People have to have it.”
Geis said that the decision is paying off for some residents as work begins on the county’s towers. She said that Netwave Broadband received a thank-you note from one Spring Lake resident who was in jeopardy of losing her job because she lacked a connection but is now working fine.