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Nobles County could see economic boost from added broadband

WORTHINGTON — Nobles County could see more than $7.6 million in economic benefits over 15 years if just 20 percent of unserved households gain access to broadband service, according to a recent study.

Every unserved home in Nobles County is located in a rural area or rural town. Roberto Gallardo, assistant director at the Purdue University Center for Regional Development and author of the study, says rural communities can emerge in the growing digital economy — where people can work online from anywhere — with access to broadband, provided they take advantage of the high speeds that give them a competitive boost.

Gallardo created “digital divide” profiles for all 86 counties in Minnesota to show the divide in broadband service and socioeconomic conditions between rural and urban areas.

The study reports Nobles County had an index score of 42.09, similar to that of most Greater Minnesota counties. The divide, in this case, is mostly between Worthington and the rest of the county, as the city has widespread access to broadband speeds.

The study reports that 26.9 percent of Nobles County residents do not have access to fixed broadband of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload.

That’s where the Lismore Cooperative Telephone broadband project, funded in part by the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and Nobles County, will change things — by providing broadband wireless speeds to nearly every home in the county and lightning-fast fiber to hundreds of rural homes and every home in Wilmont and Leota.

In southwest Minnesota, Cottonwood County had the largest divide at 51.86 — 39.4 percent of the county is without broadband service. Murray County had the highest unserved population at 48 percent and would gain more than $6.7 million in economic benefits if that number was cut down.