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City enters first phase to build broadband network

Councilors approved a contract with Magellan Advisors for a high-level design, business plan and grants for municipal broadband.

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Concept image of cables and connections for data transfer in the digital world.3d rendering.
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SUPERIOR — The city is heading into the first phase to Connect Superior with Magellan Advisors.

If approved by the city council March 15, the company will verify the feasibility of the project, do the high-level design, develop a business plan, acquire customers for the network and seek internet service providers and grants to help pay for the project.

The city council approved a contract Tuesday, March 15, with the Colorado-based company to develop the high-level design, business plan and grant acquisition to help the city build a fiber optic network for high-speed internet in Superior.

The communications and information technology committee recommended Magellan from two proposals received by the city. EntryPoint Networks, which developed the city’s broadband master plan, also submitted a proposal.

“Some of the reasons we ended up choosing Magellan included they are a very stable organization with a proven track record,” council President Tylor Elm said. “They have a large, professional team to work with all aspects of the project. They’ve worked with over 400 municipalities and connected over 1 million homes. Keep in mind, this was all done prior to the grant funding that is available now.”

Pat Malley of Duluthian Networks, an internet service provider, spoke in favor of the proposal.

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“This is, for a city the size of Superior, this is the right model for getting infrastructure in the ground, critical communications infrastructure,” Malley said. He said with publicly owned infrastructure, it would end reliance on monopolies or duopolies in the city.

“At the end of the day, our citizens need connectivity,” Malley said.

Councilor Brent Fennessey questioned if the city had an exit strategy in the event the cost of building the network was wildly different from the $31 million projected in the broadband master plan.

Mayor Jim Paine said the first phase is an ongoing evaluation and if the project is not feasible, he said the city could “bail at any point.”

“This is an impressive proposal, and highly detailed,” Fennessey said. “I think it’s necessary because my biggest worry about this is the reality of if it’s going to work and what the cost is.”

Paine said the council would likely start receiving updates on how the project is going in about three months.

The council unanimously approved the contract with Magellan by voice vote.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.