Keweenaw County exploring broadband possibilities

EAGLE RIVER — The Keweenaw County Board continues to explore the possibilities of bringing broadband internet to residents of the state’s northernmost county, which is a project proposed a couple of weeks ago by county resident Theresa Ahlborn.

Ahlborn, who wants to work remotely from her home, has said the internet options available at her home in the Bete Gris area are limited and not adequate to allow for video conferencing efficiently.

She said she has studied the issue extensively and has discovered obstacles in establishing blanket broadband accessibility to the county.

“I started trying to list out some of the challenges, and that’s where I’d like to ask some of your input,” Ahlborn said in addressing the board earlier this month.

Location access and high cost to local providers are just two complications she has found.

“What I also found was the people I talked to around the county, and there was probably a couple of dozen,” Ahlborn said, “they all said the same thing: let’s focus on our local people; let’s focus on our local providers, we don’t need to go off and spend a lot of our energy with some of these big ones. We really want to help ourselves.”

Pasty.net and Shorewaves.net are two local point-to-point service providers in the Copper Country, but only pasty.net currently is available throughout Keweenaw County.

ShoreWaves, based in Houghton, provides local high-speed internet access to rural areas in central Houghton County and as far north as Ahmeek, would like to expand into all of Keweenaw County.

Ahlborn said she has worked with ShoreWaves on the issue after having spoken with several board members individually.

Steven Fitzgerald of Shorewaves told the board his company can serve Bete Gris and Lac La Belle.

“We know we can serve Copper Harbor,” he told the board. “I’m very interested in putting equipment up and trying to serve some of the tougher areas. We get a lot of calls, especially along the bay, the shoreline.”

Fitzgerald said one of the challenges his company faces is cost.

“There’s some that we know we can do, and speaking just for any business,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s places we have to be able to hit for Keweenaw County, (for) its population, if we’re to have enough revenue to make it worthwhile at this point.”

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