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Jenkins Council favors Emily Cooperative Telephone Company fiber optic plan

ECTC plan comes in at lower cost and higher coverage than Spectrum.

Jenkins council.jpg
On Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, Jenkins Council discussed a fiber optic plan that could be paid for with American Rescue Act funds.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
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JENKINS — The Emily Cooperative Telephone Company plan to bring fiber optic to all currently unserved Jenkins properties was a clear favorite for the Jenkins City Council at the Monday, Aug. 8 regular Jenkins Council meeting.

ECTC submitted a proposal to provide broadband service to unserved properties in the city of Jenkins, Ideal Township, Jenkins Township and sections of Crow Wing County, a group working collectively to increase fiber optic coverage. The group invited ECTC, Charter and TDS to submit proposals to increase coverage within those areas. Only ECTC and Charter provided proposals.

The interested parties held a meeting to review the proposals and score the proposals on such things as: customer pricing, organizational information provided, proposed costs (to government entities). The group also considered how many properties would be included in the coverage. ECTC was the clear winner, ratings wise, with 655 points versus Charter's 345 points.

Jenkins City Council also favored ECTC's proposal for its proposed cost, $1,200,000 versus $1,859,173 (divided among the entities based on number of customers). In addition, ECTC's proposal was more complete for the city of Jenkins. Charter's plan proposed extending coverage to a limited number of properties, but the ECTC plan includes extending fiber optics to the property line of all existing and unserved Jenkins properties and extending those services to future developments as well. The cost for customers to extend the line from their property line to their home was also lower in the ECTC proposal.

"ECTC's bid was much better," said council member Jerimey Flategraff. "From the proposal it didn't look like Charter was even proposing to serve everybody. ECTC would serve everybody at minimal hookup cost for everybody."

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"I thought the bid from Emily came in very favorably," said council member Andrew Rudlang.

"I think Emily is going to be the front runner for this," said council member Kim Bachmann.

The cost for the city of Jenkins would be $45,000, which will likely be paid for using American Rescue Plan funds. Jenkins qualifies for $51,253.38, leaving $6,253.38 for other eligible uses.

During past meetings, some residents have spoken for and against the city being part of expanding internet into the city, some calling it a convenience and not an important priority that each resident or business should be responsible for. Others identified the access to fast internet as an important amenity to attract new businesses and residents to the city. Mike Baumann, owner of Lokstad Rolling Pins, addressed the council during the public forum in support of the expansion of fiber in the city.

Baumann would not likely be included in this fiber plan, as he is currently considered served by TDS, though he expressed dissatisfaction with the speed and reliability of his service, as well as customer service. He said a fast internet connection is important for his business and important for his wife, who currently stays late at work to fill out medical charts because their internet isn't dependable for such use.

The city is not on the hook for the current plan, though the council agreed to support the current proposal. Before anything can be finalized, the other entities in the plan must also approve their portion of the plan, otherwise the costs to members would change, at which time Jenkins might reconsider.

If the plan is finalized by all involved, fiber might be installed in 2023 with services to begin in late 2023 or 2024.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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