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Broadband service expands

Lines formed in the Emmaville Store this week as residents from three rural targeted areas arrived to complete permit forms allowing Paul Bunyan Communications to install a fiber optic telecommunications network on properties.

Surveys were sent out in the spring to weigh interest in expanding the network that provides broadband Internet and digital television and voice services.

Based on the survey response - those willing to subscribe to services - Paul Bunyan Communications has begun work in the customer service areas of Blue Lake and Potato Lake on CSAH 4. The expansion will continue south of Lake George to Emmaville and proceed east to the Big Mantrap Lake area.

The Pickerel Lake area was under consideration, but the response was somewhat weak, said Rob St. Clair, network operations manager.

"Since expansion will take place in the region, there is the potential for future expansion to your location, should the interest level increase," residents outside the areas learned in letters. An "expansion interest form" accompanied the letters, that can be returned indicating an interest in subscribing.

"We are building where customers want it," St. Clair said. "We may expand based on customer input. Numbers will determine the schedule."

Cost of the project is approximately $1 million, with plans for the network to be operational in the fall.

Cost to individuals will be based on services, St. Clair explained. The fiber drop to the home is included. "It's what's in the home that determines the cost."

Construction includes a main line installation next to the road using right-of-way utility easements in most instances. After the network backbone is installed, individual locations are connected to it.

Customers were advised service should be installed within two to three weeks of when the network is brought to a location.

A service brochure accompanied the letter, apprising residents of options.

In May, Paul Bunyan Communications put a $17 million broadband expansion in Hubbard County on hold due to changes in Federal Communications Commission regulations.

Brian Bissonette, a spokesperson for Paul Bunyan Communications said the decision was based on two issues.

The first was a shift in how money was to be allocated in the Universal Service Fund.

But the primary issue facing Paul Bunyan Communications is reforms to intercarrier access compensation that would institute reductions in fees for rural carriers, Bissonette said.

"That's where carriers recoup compensation," he explained of the company's revenue source. "This will have a dramatic impact on the revenue we could accrue," he said of repayment of $17 million loan through the USDA's Rural Utility Service (RUS) broadband loan program.