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(September 30, 2022)  Installation of high-speed broadband internet fiber is continuing in portions of eight townships in Pope County through the fall.  Crews are out putting fiber and supporting infrastructure in the ground in order to complete the next phase of high-speed internet access expansion by Starbuck Telephone and supported by Pope County.

Starbuck Telephone and Pope County have partnered in support of a locally-funded project to expand broadband access in previously underserved or unserved areas of Barsness, Chippewa Falls, Gilchrist, Glenwood, Leven, Minnewaska, Reno, and Rolling Forks Townships.  Pope County supported this expansion project with local County funds including funds secured by the American Rescue Plan Act, pledged at its April 5, 2022 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Residents in these areas of the County where fiber is being installed may be contacted by Starbuck Telephone or installation crew members when service lines are being installed in their area.

While the current 2022-2023 local project will make huge strides toward coverage of rural Pope County with high-speed internet service, Pope County is at the same time supporting a new initiative by Starbuck Telephone in obtaining the necessary funding to complete high-speed internet service in all remaining underserved or unserved areas of the County.

At its regular August 2, 2022 meeting, the Pope County Board of Commissioners lent its full support to a Broadband grant application submitted to the State of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) by Hanson Communications, the owner of Pope County’s local Starbuck Telephone Company.

The Board unanimously pledged support, including cost-share funding, for the project that will complete fiber broadband service availability to the entire County if the grant is successful.

Between the current County-supported phase, and the phase proposed in the latest DEED grant solicitation, the County has pledged additional cost-share support from general County funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.  The grant application submitted for 2022 would have the County and willing local government partners cost-share approximately 10% of the total project cost, with the other portion being funded by Starbuck Telephone as the applicant, and by the State of Minnesota if the grant funds are awarded to the project.

If the grant is received, full fiber broadband coverage in Pope County would be expected by the end of 2024.  Starbuck Telephone and Pope County are awaiting news of the grant awards as of the date of this release.

For more information on the County-supported Broadband projects pending or broadband service generally in the County, contact the Pope County Information Technology department here or Starbuck Telephone here.