By Anna Erickson
More Hubbard County residents will have access to broadband after upgrades this summer to Paul Bunyan Communications’ network.
Brian Bissonette, marketing supervisor for Paul Bunyan Communications in Bemidji, said the cooperative is expanding their all fiber optic network to more than 1,000 locations of rural Park Rapids this summer. Once operational, this network will deliver broadband high- speed Internet services, along with television and voice services for all locations that get connected.
It will cover areas south of Itasca State Park to Two Inlets, areas south of Emmaville to Highway 34, most of the region between County Road 4 and U.S. Highway 71 north of the city of Park Rapids, and some areas to the east of County Road 4 between Emmaville and Highway 34.
“It won’t be quite everyone in the county,” Bissonnette said. “We did a survey and it was based largely on those results. It’s a pretty big geographic area, though.”
The areas included in the project include some or all of the locations near the following lakes: Lower and Upper Bottle, Big and Little Sand, Pickerel, Blue, Little Mantrap, Potato, Eagle, Island and Two Inlets.
This expansion will not necessarily reach every location within the region described.
People are encouraged to contact Paul Bunyan Communications to find out if their specific location is in the expansion plans for 2013. They can contact Paul Bunyan’s offices at 888-586-3100 for more information.
The Park Rapids Enterprise first reported on the story in September of 2011 when Paul Bunyan received a $17 million interest loan to begin construction.
However, in November 2011 the FCC made dramatic changes to the regulations concerning rural telephone service providers that prevented the cooperative from expanding as far or as fast as they had originally anticipated.
“We still have access to the loan and we’ve been expanding more slowly,” Bissonnette said.
Construction is expected to begin within the next two weeks and is anticipated to be completed no later than October.
Once the network is physically installed up to a location, services generally become available within 2-3 weeks.
Currently, most people who live in the areas in the expansion have access to dial-up or satellite service, which isn’t as high speed or reliable in many cases.
“The options are pretty limited right now,” Bissonnette said.
Last year Paul Bunyan was able to expand to about 400 locations.
No specific announcements have been made, but Bissonnette said there is a possibility for continued expansion in the area.
Any determination on expansion in 2014 will not be made until next May or June.