By Ivan Raconteur
CARVER COUNTY, MN Carver County Board Chair Randy Maluchnik opened the kickoff ceremony for the $7.5 million Carver County Open Fiber Initiative (CCOFI), noting that it was the only time in memory when two US senators attended an event in the county.
US Senator Amy Klobuchar and US Senator Al Franken were the featured speakers during the event, which took place at the Carver County Public Works Facility in Cologne Tuesday.
A large group of residents and elected officials from across the county attended the event, which included a ground-breaking for the 122-mile high-speed fiber optic network that will connect city, county, school, and other public facilities throughout all 11 communities in Carver County.
Attendees were able to see some of the fiber optic construction equipment that will be used on the project, as well as demonstrations of how fiber optic cable is spliced together in the field.
Maluchnik recognized those who have been involved in making the project a reality since the idea was introduced in 2008.
Carver County applied for and has received nearly $6 million in federal stimulus grant funds for its fiber optic broadband ring project. The county will provide nearly $1.5 million in funding for the project, which is the required 20 percent match of the total project cost of approximately $7.5 million.
“A kid born in Carver County should be able to stay and work in Carver County,” Klobuchar commented, adding that the CCOFI project will help make this possible by bringing jobs to the county.
Klobuchar, who has supported the project, joked that Allison O’Toole, chief of staff in her Minnesota office, who was formerly chief deputy county attorney in the Carver County Attorney’s Office, reminds her about the needs of Carver County every day.
Klobuchar compared the Internet to the Rural Electrification Administration of the 1930s, noting that the decision was made not to leave rural areas behind.
“The impact (of the CCOFI project) will be huge,” Klobuchar commented.
She mentioned different areas that will benefit from the project, including business.
“Broadband is the ticket to reaching more customers, selling more products, and growing your business,” Klobuchar said.
She added that the project will allow businesses in Carver County to compete on an international stage.
“This project will not just create jobs in construction, it will make this a great place to do business,” Franken commented.
He said the project will also help employees, by making it possible for some people to telecommute, rather than spending time in traffic.
“I love to see evidence that Washington got something done and did something right,” Franken commented, adding that the CCOFI project is an example of something that Washington did right.
He said the project will provide new levels of connectivity, from Cologne, MN to Cologne, Germany.