Update: “Broadband in the Arrowhead”

Summer is passing us by too quickly in Cook County.  It seems like just last week we resumed broadband construction when in actuality it has been on-going for nearly 10 weeks now.  Since we received our first funds from RUS (the funding source), Arrowhead has been busy ordering materials and solidifying our plans to launch services.

With a project of this magnitude there are bound to be bumps in the road.  Hopefully we’ve passed the large one’s at this point but we still encounter a few now and then.  One of the bumps which seems minor to most members but causes a lot of disruption and greatly slows construction progress is the few of those who have forgotten to sign-up for service until you see locate marks in your neighborhood,  spools of conduit, or fiber alongside the road.  If you are in Schroeder, Tofte, Lutsen or much of the Cascade area the time to sign-up to have the drop constructed to your property this year has passed.  Arrowhead will still build to your property, however, it will be in 2013 sometime.  If you think you are in this position, please call the office ASAP and we will get you on the list to build to next year.

That being said, if you live in Grand Marais, Maple Hill, Colvill, Hovland, Grand Portage or up the Gunflint it’s not too late yet, but with each day that passes you run the risk of having to wait longer to receive broadband service.

So, please, please, please send in that permission card/site sketch, call the Arrowhead office or download a new permission card/site sketch here if you haven’t sent one in yet.  The thing we’ve hated to do the most recently is tell members they’ll have to wait till next year because they didn’t act in time to sign-up allowing us to build the drop to their home or business.  It’s not something we like doing, but to keep construction moving forward and be fair to those members patiently waiting who did sign-up on time we have to push forward.

Remember, a fiber optic cable to your home is much more than just “better than dial-up, DSL connection” or “Faster than DSL (now) but full of latency problems Satelite internet.”  A fiber to your home or business can deliver the fastest internet available anywhere in the world today, phone service and TV service.   With all the construction going on it’s even more fair to ask Arrowhead that big question.  “When will service be available?”  The answer is, in 2013.  Arrowhead has placed orders for equipment and is in the process of building a data center (of sorts) in our office.  We have DC power supplies being installed, local electricians assisting the DC power folks and local plumbers installing a dedicated cooling system for the room.  “So, when will service be available?”  In 2013.

Arrowhead is working with another stimulus project (Northeast Service Cooperative – NESC) which is building a fiber optic “backbone” throughout much of Northeastern Minnesota.  This organization has 9 miles of construction to complete to connect Lake County to Cook County.  In addition, we are assisting in every way possible to help them site a small building in Grand Marais.  This building  will house the electronics needed to provide Arrowhead service and connectivity to the rest of the world.  Once NESC has service available, Arrowhead will be able to begin offering service.

Another question frequently asked about connectivity to the rest of the world is, “Why not just use the fiber cable that currently comes into Cook County?”  The answer is simple in some respects and not so simple in others.  The fact is Arrowhead could use the existing cable owned by the current incumbent phone provider.  The problem is, as many businesses have found out, it’s quite expensive.  Arrowhead has budgeted to purchase bandwidth on this cable as a “plan B” to partnering with NESC.  However, we believe the NESC project is coming along and if it means patiently waiting a bit, it will be worth it to connect to a new network which is less expensive, provides communication redundancy between Duluth and Lake County Highway 1 (Illgen City), and since NESC is a Cooperative, we believe strongly in partnering with them.

What will service cost me?  The answer is, we still are not quite there.  The hold up is the development of TV pricing and “bundled” prices.  We have narrowed our TV options down to three vendors and are currently comparing proposals.  Once we select a vendor we can finalize our TV rates and bundled discounts.

Pictures and more frequent updates on the project are best found on Arrowhead’s Facebook page.  You don’t even need to have a Facebook account to view our page.  Simply go to www.facebook.com/aecimn and you can see pictures of construction, the impact of rock on a cable plow, as well as regular updates informing members where construction crews are working.

As always,  thank  you to all our members and to those in Grand Marais who continually support this important project and are waiting so patiently.

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