US Rep. Committee Investigating Broadband Project

By KBJR News 1

March 26, 2013 Updated Mar 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM CDT

Two Harbors, MN (NNCNOW.com)-- A project that will bring broadband access to thousands of people is now at the center of a federal investigation.

The system now being installed in Lake and St. Louis Counties is under scrutiny by a committee in the US House of Representatives.

Close to $60 million in stimulus funds are going to help bring broadband services, like high speed internet and video, to over 15,000 homes and over 1,000 businesses in both Lake and parts of Eastern St. Louis Counties.

In a letter to the Department of Agriculture, a member of the Energy and Commerce committee states that they are concerned the program may have been used to overbuild the existing system, rather than helping those in need of broadband.

The Department of Agriculture has until Tuesday to respond to the investigation.

Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston doesn't have much to say about the investigation, other than the county is cooperating in any way possible.

"We'd be willing to help in a timely matter, but again we're just focusing on building our product and getting that done and moving construction forward at this time," said Huddleston at the Lake County courthouse Monday.

Those working on the project say despite one scheduling tweak, the project should be done as early as the end of 2014.

"If things go really well, hopefully we can complete our construction at the end of 2014 with maybe some carry over into 2015--that would be if things go as planned," said Huddleston.

Lake County educators and business owners say the project's completion will bring a better sense of efficiency, and communication to the northland.

"Most of the time, students are getting their information straight from the web. Books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers articles on any subject...they cant get them at the tip of their fingertips," said Lake Superior School District Superintendent Bill Crandall.

Phase two of the project will install more than 400 miles of fiber optic cable from Duluth, to Beaver Bay, and it will begin in the next two weeks.

Written for the web by Zach Vavricka
zvavricka@kbjr.com