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Murray County commissioners discuss broadband options

During a special session, commissioners discussed the county's need for broadband services.

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MURRAY COUNTY — The Murray County Board of Commissioners convened a special session earlier this week to discuss funding options for broadband in Murray County and American Rescue Plan expenditures.

Based on a 2018 feasibility study, estimates are it would cost more than $21 million to get broadband installed across Murray County, a task that was ruled unfeasible without a private partnership, multiple rounds of grants, or both. The same study found that, were broadband available, roughly 2,690 customers would take advantage of the service.

“I think there’s a lot of advantages to getting this out there,” said Jason Lorenz, who met with the board to discuss broadband options.

Funding options would include grants such as the Border-to-Border broadband grant, which will match up to 50% of the project cost, up to $5 million.

“We are really in a time crunch right now,” Commissioner Molly Malone noted of the June 23 deadline for the grant application.

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Murray County currently has $500,000 set aside in ARPA funds that can be used. Other grants in the 30% to 40% matching range were also discussed, with the acknowledgment that most would require approval. Most grants are going to require a financial commitment from a local government.

The Board resolved to apply for the Border-to-Border grant while using $500,000 in ARPA funds as the county's investment requirement, and see how much area they could cover with those funds. Meanwhile, they said they would address the matter further at a June 21 meeting, should more funding be needed. The board also suggested looking into partnering with internet service providers such as Woodstock Communications and Lismore Telecom for a joint grant project.

Commissioner Lori Gunnick noted that without broadband, Murray County was likely to continue to see a population decline.

“Without the broadband, that’s going to continue,” she stated. “With broadband, we have the potential to pull in people.”

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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