Commission considers approach to broadband proposals

Updated: Jan 5

MOUND CITY – Linn County Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower and Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission (SEKRPC) Community Liaison Taylor Hogue met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Dec. 13, to discuss how the request for proposal (RFP) for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds would be set up.

The county contracts with SEKRPC for help in writing and administering grants. The county will be receiving a total of $1.9 million for the grant and will pay five percent or $94,235 to SEKRPC for their work.

The commissioners told Hogue that the main thing they were interested in was getting better Internet service and broadband to the west side of the county, especially the towns of Parker, Centerville, and Blue Mound, and also looking at walking floor trailer for the transfer station. If there was enough money available, they were also thinking of possible running broadband to Tanglewood Lakes, Sugar Valley Lakes, or Lake Chaparral.

But they were not sure how the RFP should be set up for the broadband. They did not know if there should be one RFP with different options, separate RFPs, or if applicants would just bid on the section they were interested in.

Hogue told the commissioners that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had a map that showed which areas are unserved or underserved by the Internet because these are the areas that ARPA funds are targeted for. She said this would be helpful in deciding exactly where areas they would be putting on the RFP.

Hightower explained that the information on this map was provided by Internet providers and was often inaccurate showing that people received good Internet service when they did not.

Hogue said the most accurate way to tell what kind of Internet service was available was to send out surveys asking residents who they received Internet from and on their bill what speed they were receiving. People can go to to find out their Internet speed.

James asked them to look at the map and see if the areas of Parker, Centerville, and Blue Mound were unserved or underserved. If they were, it would not be necessary to send out surveys.

Hightower said that Linn County Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin had some ideas about setting up the RFP. But he could not be at the meeting. Hightower said that she and Hogue would talk with him later. Hightower and Hogue will be setting up one RFP for broadband installation on one side of the county.

Hightower told the commissioners that Martin had talked about a plan where the county would contract to put in the conduit and that way they would be in control of the fiber. She said that Martin felt that was a way to look at being in control of future fiber to farm installations.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that he was not in favor of the county being responsible for the Internet. James also said that he did not think that was a good idea.

Hogue also said that at the request of Hightower she had been looking at the funds being available for a water salesman inside the gate of Tanglewood Lakes. Hogue said the grant funds would not pay for the delivery of the water but would pay for a feasibility study.

She said she had also looked into the possibility of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for delivering water to Tanglewood. She said the county could apply for it but that it would probably require a 50 percent match and that the Tanglewood organization said they did not have the funds for that.

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