Kendall County moves closer to constructing its own broadband system

Hundreds of miles of Ubiquity fiber networks are providing broadband access to thousands of customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. (Photo: Business Wire)

Kendall County has taken another step toward the county constructing its own broadband system.

At the May 7 Kendall County Board meeting, board members approved a predevelopment agreement with Pivot Tech Development, including expenses of up to $1.3 million. In September, the Kendall County Board approved Denver-based technology firm Pivot-Tech to be the county’s partner for building the broadband system.

More than 1,900 homes in Kendall County are considered unserved or underserved with internet access, according to county officials. In 2022, the county began assessing ways to bridge this gap.

Kendall County Administrator Christina Burns told county board members the county has allocated $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act expenses for broadband-associated costs.

“Additional ARPA funds are available to allocate toward the project,” she said.

“It’s a really innovative approach to delivering broadband.”

—   Christina Burns, Kendall County administrator

The proposed predevelopment agreement outlines the responsibilities of both the county and Pivot Tech moving forward, Burns said.

“As outlined in the agreement, the project-related expenditures are agreed to be converted to a loan with the project company once it is established,” Burns said. “Repayment of these expenses will be subordinate to any debt the project company incurs and necessary project investment. However, if the project is generating revenue, the county wants the opportunity to recapture these costs at some point.”

The county has received a $15 million grant from the Illinois Office of Broadband. Created in September 2019, the Office of Broadband is housed within the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

With the grant award, the county plans to develop a public-private partnership that will result in more than $40 million in investment in a community-owned broadband network. The project is expected to kick off this fall.

As proposed, the network would provide broadband access to portions of the county not currently served by high-speed internet.

“It’s a really innovative approach to delivering broadband,” Burns said. “When the pandemic hit, there were homes where kids couldn’t do online schooling because they didn’t have quality internet access within Kendall County. So we’re really hoping to provide a high level of service at a very reasonable rate.”

As part of the public-private partnership, Pivot Tech plans to bring more than $25 million in additional private capital and project-based revenue bonds to finance the project. The county intends to enter into a concession agreement for the finance, development, construction and operation of the network for an extended term.

The county will be a stakeholder in the network’s development and operation and receive a portion of the project’s profit.