High-speed internet effort rapidly advancing in county

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The newly created Crawford County Communications Cooperative (3C Co-op) is certainly going full steam ahead to bring broadband internet to the rural parts of the county.

“We are working very diligently to get service to as many residents in the shortest time that we possibly can,” said 3C Co-op Chairman Jay McCloskey. “The 3C Co-op Board has a strong sense of urgency because every week that residents don’t have broadband is yet another week that children can’t do all of their homework at home, and that people don’t have the opportunity to telecommute/work from home.” 

McCloskey acknowledges that providing broadband internet throughout Crawford County is a daunting task that may take several years, but there’s no time like the present to begin the big push.

An engineering study has determined that there are 3,605 locations that do not currently have broadband service, defined by the FCC as a minimum of 25Mgb download and 3 Mgb upload speeds.  These are in all portions of Crawford County not served by the Richland-Grant Telephone Cooperative or the Vernon Communications Cooperative, and the city of Prairie du Chien. These portions already have access to broadband. McCloskey said a survey will soon be conducted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to help identify the number of these locations that would become potential subscribers of 3C’s service.   

McCloskey said the 3C Co-op is pursuing burying fiber optic cable that would provide Fiber To The Home (FTTH), with minimum speeds of 25 Mgb download and 25 Mgb upload, and up to a one gigabit upload and a one gigabit download. One gigabit equals 1,000 Mgb. He said it would take more than 1,000 miles of cable to serve all identified locations.

The main trunk of the fiber optic cable already exists, that 3C Co-op could utilize. 3C Co-op would build off of this trunk fiber to bury fiber optic cable along all county roads and all other thoroughfares necessary to complete the task. The estimate is that it would take 611 miles of cable for the secondary and tertiary roads, as well as another 391 miles to get from the roads to the homes.

3C Co-op, which was incorporated in September of 2018, has been working with the Rural Utility Service (RUS), which is a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. “We’ve been working on all the steps necessary to gain funding, with low interest loans and grants, through RUS,” said McCloskey.

3C Co-op’s FTTH Project would take millions of dollars, but McCloskey said it would be done in phases. The engineering study has outlined four areas, and a total of 69 subsections.

Mid-State Consultants of Tomah, which is experienced in working with RUS, has reviewed the engineering study that has been completed, will verify its results, prepare the RUS application, and would oversee construction of the FTTH infrastructure.

Once enough financing has been secured in order to begin a phase, McCloskey said five to 10 miles of cable can be buried per week if all goes well.

McCloskey said 3C Co-op is actively working on membership and community support for the broadband internet project. “We’re very committed and rapidly in progress,” he said. “Many people have contacted us and are talking to their neighbors to assist. We also have a new 3C Co-op website in development and coming soon.”

“There are so many advantages to having high-speed internet,” McCloskey continued. “Right now, students are assigned homework that requires the internet, that they can’t do at home. It’s important to be able to work remotely. People would be able to have jobs by which they telecommute and work from their homes either full-time or part-time. Young people wouldn’t have to leave our county because of a lack of high-speed internet.”

McCloskey said once fiber optic cable is in place and homes are hooked up, 3C Co-op would offer different packages to serve clients’ varying needs. Services would include high-speed internet, phone service (that could retain your current phone number), television movie channels, sports channels, and more. 3C Co-op members will be the collective owners of 3C Co-op and its infrastructure.

“We would have world class internet,” said McCloskey, who can be contacted for more information at Info@3c.coop.

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