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St. Germain looks at broadband improve-ments

Fiber optic line that would help provide service for each residence already in place

April 17, 2020 by Brian Jopek

The fact a fiber optic line to the elementary school in St. Germain was a topic of discussion at the March 9 meeting of the town board. 

Town chairman Tom Christensen said it was something he “was excited about” after he and town supervisor Jim Swenson spoke to businessman Carl Ruedebusch. 

“He asked us what our plan was, what our activity was, as far as trying to improve broadband service to our residents in the town of St. Germain,” Christensen said. “I said, ‘Honestly, there isn’t a plan that’s out there at the present time.’”

He explained further Ruedebusch asked if Christensen was aware there was a fiber optic line running from Eagle River to the elementary school in St. Germain. 

Christensen said he’d heard that was done last year and said Ruedebusch asked him if there was an understanding that fiber optic line has the capability to hook up each and every residence in the town of St. Germain “if that’s the direction you want to go.”

“And I said ‘No, I didn’t have that understanding of the cable that came into town,’” Christensen said, adding Ruedebusch set up a March 6 meeting between Christensen, Swenson and representatives with Eagle River-based Choice TEL, the company that ran the fiber optic line to the elementary school. 

“They’re finishing up Land O’ Lakes at the present time and they’re going to send the necessary paperwork as there are grants available from the state of Wisconsin for a 50% match,” he said. “They end up writing the grant for us.”

Christensen said there would be steps the town would have to take, a primary one committing to the other 50% of the cost to get broadband to every home off that line. 

“We don’t know all of those costs yet,” he said. “The numbers that we heard, the preliminary numbers from what the Land O’ Lakes installation was is a very doable number, especially with the grant.”

With regard to grant considerations by the state, Christensen said towns with fiber optic lines in place, such as St. Germain, would be higher priority “because it has the capability to handle” the rest of the town. 

He said he anticipates a special meeting will be held sometime in the next several weeks regarding broadband and what the town would need to do.

“Once the cable is down the individual private and town roads, then the installation is on ChoiceTEL,” Christensen said. “And of course there’s a monthly fee for the service. The minimum service is 25 megabytes per second.”

He said that was the speed for both uploading and downloading. 

Town supervisor Ted Ritter, before the discussion ended, asked for more detail on what the next steps were for the town. 

Christensen said there would be a cost estimate generated by ChoiceTEL to put the “backbone” of the service into the town. 

“The grant has to be filed by June of this year,” he said. “At that point ... the town board will have to get together and say, ‘Alright, here’s how we’re gonna fund this’ or we’re not gonna do this. Whatever the amount is, we’ll have to make that decision.”

“So, we have March, April and May to get answers to all these questions,” Ritter said. 

“Correct,” Christensen replied. “It sounds very exciting, we don’t have all the details yet. We’re gonna progress down the path and see if it can become a reality. If it’s affordable to us that we can handle that. That, to me would be a great improvement to the internet service in our town.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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