FiberOptic Task Force Working on Grant Application

Geek Squad Yesterday the EDA/City Fiberoptic Task Force met to plan their application for a technology grant from the Blandin Foundation. At the last City Council meeting, the council OK'd matching funds if the City is awarded the grant. The grant's purpose is to fund feasibility studies for deploying open networks (defined as those which "enable multiple, competitive retail providers to use the same network by purchasing access from a wholesale network owner and manager").

While the outcome of both the grant app and the study results are unknown, this is a very positive step for Northfield. Community Development Directory Brian O’Connell, who is not known to be particularly geeky, is a seasoned pro who "gets" why fiberoptic cables are significant for Northfield, and might be more accurately understood as infrastructure rather than as amenity. On a practical level, figures provided to the Task Force indicate that for many businesses in town, the cost for business-level high-speed internet is roughly 30% higher in Northfield for roughly 30% lower speeds/bandwidth compared to the metro area.

Obviously this puts Northfield's businesses at a competitive disadvantage if they rely on the internet for anything other than email and consumer web surfing.

For the long-term view, there are reams of data describing the woeful condition of US broadband compared to all other developed countries, and even many developing ones.

It’s not quite “fiber-to-Griff’s-condo”, but at least the City is moving.


  1. Ross Currier said:


    Didn’t the EDA just give IDinsight a $50,000 forgiveable loan to extend St. Olaf’s high-speed infrastructure to their business and a $10,000 grant to St. Olaf to study extending the infrastructure?

    I may be a little fuzzy on the details but I think it’s important to remind the world that the colleges have brought a spine to Northfield that offers super high-speed potential and that the Northfield Economic Development Authority is ready to help businesses access that potential.

    We may be just a few steps away from going from a “competitive disadvantage” to a competitive advantage in internet access, adding that to our authentic Historic Downtown, rich Arts and Culture, and broad Community Intellect, making Northfield the place to bring your business.

    Perhaps EDA President Rick Estenson could help clarify this matter.


    July 3, 2007
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    Ross, your memory here is essentially correct. But the ID Insights example is a reactive one rather than the proactive one we’re trying to accomplish with the study (and, it is to be hoped, the resulting implementation).

    Extending the St. Olaf infrastructure a bit further south may benefit other businesses as well; however, the City needs to be sure we’re not simply letting a particular provider cherry-pick all the fat commercial clients.

    July 3, 2007

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