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Dakota Broadband becoming a reality

Redundancy is not usually a selling point for effective government, it can be with technology. The city of Farmington approved an agreement that promises to add institutional internet network services.

Farmington City Council approved entering the Dakota Broadband Joint Powers agreement on Monday, Dec. 18, after three years of detailed discussions, debate and more than 20 draft revisions.

Farmington City Administrator David McKnight said the discussion happened in tandem with Dakota County Community Development Agency and 11 cities. Rosemount is among them and is expected to hold a similar vote soon.

"This has been picked apart by every city, attorney and city administrator," McKnight said.

The study group inventoried fiber assets and proposed methods to share costs and complete and operate the network — and that is all part of the joint powers agreement. The city staff, human resources, IT and community developments also have been involved in the process.

"It is important to note that the city of Eagan will not be participating in this project while 11 major cities did participate in this process, and Eagan is not involved because they basically already have this setup in their community already," McKnight said.

To move forward with the network construction, upfront costs have been identified.

"They are looking at what pieces exist and what needs to be built to build a countywide network," McKnight said.

The total cost is estimated to be nearly $1.7 million to cover about 5.775 of fiber construction miles. The initial cost to the city taxpayers is estimated to be under $35,000, McKnight said.

"There are several significant areas to benefit Farmington, and the two most important, in my opinion, is the city currently only has one current connection to the internet and the single connection creates a liability to our continuity of operations should something catastrophic occur to that single connection," McKnight said. "The proposed I-Net would create multiple layers of redundancies so that the city would have access to the internet through other locations."

He added that isn't the case now. "When the internet goes down here at the city and departments such as the police department and liquor stores, the work basically stops."

A choice, too

The second reason to take part, McKnight said, is for the city to work toward building a robust redundancy when it comes to access to the Internet and to have a choice of internet service providers.

"This is a critical point for many high-tech businesses," McKnight said. This will likely be a valuable selling point for current and future businesses, he explained.

The Joint Powers Agreement was approved by Dakota County and Dakota County Community Development Agency. Other cities will be looking to approve the agreement at December and January council meetings.

Besides the initial $35,000 project, Farmington will pay $8,400 a year in operating costs.

The council will need to appoint members to serve on the Dakota County Broadband Board that meets in January.

Farmington Mayor Todd Larson said "This has been a long time in the making and has been on our agenda and I am glad we are at this point because we have talked about it forever."

Farmington City Council approved the agreement without further discussion or questions. Council members Terry Donnelly and Jason Bartholomay were absent.

McKnight said, "This is just another example of Dakota County and the cities working together to provide these high quality and wanted services at the lowest possible costs to our residents and businesses."