Fiber Optic Project Breaks Ground

By KBJR News 1

April 20, 2011 Updated Apr 20, 2011 at 7:04 PM CDT

Mountain Iron, MN (Northland's Newscenter) -A $43.5 million dollar fiber optic project made its first official mark on region today.

It's a bright outlook for the future of northeastern Minnesota, and after Wednesday's ground breaking, it will be a more connected one, too.

"This is in the ground, fiber optic assets which can be leveraged in countless ways," said Paul Brinkman, executive director with Northeast Service Cooperative.

Executive director of Northeast Service Cooperative says the idea was made a reality thanks to funds made possible by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"We knew that a big part of the stimulus package was creating world broadband. It obviously will create jobs in doing this project; it is also going to create economic development in the short run and in the long run," said U.S. Senator Al Franken.

The 915 miles of fiber optic network will stretch across eight counties in the Arrowhead Region and bring world class web speeds to the area.

Some of the first people to see a change in service will be health care facilities and schools, where administrators say Internet plays a vital role in education.

"It's like a rope, and it's just one of the pieces in our rope that is woven into it is this technology and this going to link our schools together over the whole region," said Dr. Charles Rick, superintendent with ISD 2142.

State lawmakers were also on hand at the ceremony and say this type of technology is pivotal to economic development.

"I want this to be the next step in people realizing that economic diversification on the Iron Range can be done because we are wired, we're ready to go, and we have a work force that is second to none," said state Sen. David Tomassoni.

In an announcement that could be the first of many, Frontier Communications told those in attendance that they're in the process of forming a contract with NESC to use more than 450 miles of the overall network.

"Just because someone chooses not to live in Minneapolis doesn't mean they shouldn't have, or should enjoy all the services of a large city," said Rhonda Lutzke with Frontier Communications.

Around 400 miles of the network is scheduled to be completed this summer, with the remaining 515 miles completed in 2012.