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Lee County to see improved internet access

LEE COUNTY, Ia. (WGEM) -- A new push to get broadband to people who live in rural Lee County is underway.

County leaders, economic development officials and the company in charge of the $5.5 million dollar project said they're looking to prepare the county's internet for the next generation.

"We have had people ask me, 'How come you're not doing broadband? How come you're not improving the computer capabilities in the rural area?,'" supervisor Rick Larkin said. "And I say it takes a lot of money to do that."

But now the county has the money and has even bigger plans: build a fiber optic backbone that will run around the the perimeter of the county and get rural areas connected.

Economic development officials said the lack of broadband in some areas is holding Lee County back.

"Obviously not just a lot of students are working from home, or have been working from home in the past, we have a lot of businesses, industries and individuals that can work anywhere now but you can't work anywhere if you don't have access to high speed internet," Dennis Fraise said.

Danville Mutual Telephone Company CEO Timothy Fencl said the backbone his company will build will bring immediate access to 130 Tier 1, or unserved customers.

But Fencl said their goal is to use the backbone to get as many online as possible.

"Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations in the future that are considered underserved and when I say underserved that is anything that gets less than 100 by 100 mega bits per second," he said.

Officials said the entire cost of the project is covered by two sources, $3.5 million from a state grant and $1.9 million from the Lee County Board of Supervisors.

Fencl said there has already been a lot of work done mapping out the route of the backbone.

He said with the current supply chain issues it's hard to tell when dirt might begin to turn but they're hoping to get underway in the next year to year and a half.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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