Duluth asks Lincoln Park residents to weigh in on proposed fiber optic network

Duluth asks Lincoln Park residents to weigh in on proposed fiber optic network

DULUTH — The city is preparing to invest $5.5 million in a fiber optic network that should provide high-speed data services to Lincoln Park residents and businesses at a more affordable price. But first, he wants to gauge public interest in the project.

Portrait of Emily Larson

Mayor of Duluth Emily Larson

City officials are asking residents and local businesses to show interest in installing a city-owned system by visiting duluthfiber.com or filling out a non-binding form at a local public library.

Mayor Emily Larson described high-speed broadband data service as something “truly every resident of this community needs, deserves and should expect.”

However, she suggested that many Lincoln Park residents were left out of the game.

At a news conference at the corner of Superior Street and West 19th Avenue on Tuesday, Larson said, “We’re here to discuss this because it’s such an underserved neighborhood.”

While Larson said it might be inconvenient that she, as a visitor, can’t text from parts of Lincoln Park, “What’s deeply problematic are households, children, families who can’t access the internet or broadband in that neighborhood.When we have children and families who sit outside fast food restaurants to connect to the internet to apply for a job, look for housing or doing their homework is bad for our whole community.

She suggested the local situation is worse than it looks, saying, “Although on paper the City of Duluth appears to be a serviced community, we know there are many, many neighborhoods that do not have access, do not have connectivity and do not have reliable internet or broadband access.

Emily Nygren, a city economic developer, said Duluth staff are excited to start the Lincoln Park pilot project and that it will “serve up to 1,900 residents and businesses with fiber internet access.”

In January, Duluth City Council is expected to weigh in on a resolution that could allow work to begin on the project, with hopes the service will be up and running by the end of the year, allowing residents to begin receiving the service.

Nygren said that in a recent survey, more than 1,700 residents said they were unhappy with their current internet service because it was unreliable, did not meet their speed expectations, or was unaffordable.

Nygren said under the current plan, the city would own a fiber optic network and provide access to service providers, who would compete to provide the most attractive and cheapest options to users. Based on what other communities have seen, she predicted that the infrastructure would reduce the current cost of service by $20 to $30 and deliver it at accelerated speeds.

Ideally, Nygren said at least half of the customers with the ability to access the network would sign up for the service.

The city has already set aside $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds received through the US Federal Bailout Act to support the initiative, and Nygren said the rest of the cost should be covered. by available local economic development funds, without adding to the Duluth property. tax burden.

The city administration had previously explored the idea of ​​funding the project partly from the Community Investment Trust, but that changed course when a few members of the city council raised concerns about the reduction of the single reserve which helps support Duluth’s bond rating.

If the Lincoln Park fiber optic pilot project is well received, Duluth could consider integrating it into a citywide system at a much higher projected cost of $76 million to $79 million.

In a statement, Larson said, “Especially after the pandemic has moved much of our day-to-day activities online, it is now crucial that everyone who lives, works and plays in Duluth has reliable and affordable access to a Broadband Internet connectivity that has the capability to meet current and future technology needs. The city is so excited to make measurable progress towards that end.

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