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Administrators, others discuss broadband in Wright Co.
Sept. 26, 2011

By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor

BUFFALO, MN – Wright County Information Technology Director Bill Swing and city administrators from cities across the county discussed broadband during a meeting in Buffalo Thursday.

Swing categorized the discussions as “very preliminary,” and said those in attendance discussed broad concepts and ideas about how broadband might benefit Wright County.

Swing said the idea for the discussion came from Annandale City Administrator Mark Casey.

Wright County Commissioner Rose Thelen, who also attended the meeting, said Casey saw the fiber optic ring project in Carver County, and the grants that the county received to help implement it, and wanted to discuss the possibility of expanding broadband in Wright County.

Casey mentioned this to Thelen, and she brought Swing into the discussion.

Swing was then asked to speak about the subject during the monthly meeting of city administrators in Buffalo.

Thelen noted that she is taking no official role for the county in these discussions, but was merely responding to the needs of her constituents.

“It is all very informal at this point,” Thelen said. “We are just starting to talk about it, and we don’t know where it will go.”

She said Casey compared broadband to basic infrastructure, like sewer and water service, and this is something businesses look at when deciding where to locate.

Swing noted there was some interest in further discussions about how cities, townships, school districts, and the county might work together to bring the benefits of broadband to the county.

Among the topics discussed during Thursday’s meeting were the business benefits of broadband, and how it might affect economic development, government operations, and service to the public.

The key, according to Swing, is communication between the various governmental entities.

Swing stressed that these discussions are very preliminary, and focused on sharing ideas.

The consensus of the meeting, he said, was that there needs to be more education about the subject.

One possible next step would be a large group meeting in Buffalo.

Swing said the cities of Buffalo and Monticello have a good perspective on broadband from their own experience, and would be able to share information about how broadband has affected economic development and government operations in their cities.

Thelen said other people might be invited to speak during such a meeting to provide additional information.

“I’m very excited,” Thelen said. “The district I serve is very under-served by the Internet.”

Thelen said some of the questions that might be addressed in an informational meeting include what is the future of broadband, and how is Wright County positioned to benefit from broadband.

She said Thursday’s meeting provided some “good informal discussion” about the subject.

If there is interest after an informational meeting takes place, future steps might include a feasibility study and discussions about possible formulas for cost allocation, according to Swing.

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