Plans for Kendall County to construct its own broadband system have taken another step forward.
At a Nov. 16 special Kendall County Board meeting, board members unanimously approved a contract with Ice Miller law firm for legal services related to the project. The legal services are expected to cost at least $75,000.
As Kendall County Board member Zach Bachmann, chairman of the Connect Kendall County Commission told other board members, Ice Miller law firm “specializes in this type of process, the process of public-private partnerships for broadband and telecom services.”
In September, the Kendall County Board approved Denver-based technology firm Pivot-Tech to be the county’s partner for building the broadband system. The project initially was conceived as an effort to provide internet connections to underserved rural areas of the county.
Bachmann said the project is now envisioned as one to create a more comprehensive fiber optic system.
“We’re taking a visionary approach,” Bachmann said. “We’re looking for our system to be the model. It’s must be beneficial for everyone.”
A major feature of the project will be to establish “anchor points” for the broadband system at police and fire stations, schools, government offices and other public facilities for creating an emergency communications system.
Bachmann said engineering work by Pivot-Tech to design the system is expected to get underway soon and that construction on the multi-year project could conceivably get underway as soon as next year.
Pivot-Tech has the necessary experience and connections with service providers and contractors to plan and build the system, Bachmann said.
But first the county will need to obtain grant money to help finance the work, now estimated at upwards of $100 million.
Grants are offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act for which the county may apply.
The idea is for the county to fund half the project with grant money. The county would put up the other half with the intention of recouping its investment through fees paid to the county by internet service providers.
Many rural areas in Kendall County suffer from slow or nonexistent internet service because for-profit providers find that the cost of installing fiber optic lines in sparsely populated locations is not worth the return.
With the county providing a fiber optic highway covering long distances, it would become more financially feasible for a big service provider to install what is termed “last mile” service to customers’ homes.
The county has already mapped out the project, creating 13 gigantic rings that would constitute the fiber optic highways from which the service providers would make the “last mile” connection to customers.