Minnesota network stalls
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Mar 29, 2001
Minnesota state officials are considering their next step after recently
terminating an agreement with a developer unable to get additional funding
for the installation of a 2,200-mile fiber-optic network. The network was
to be a boon to half the state's population — people living outside the
Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Officials hoped to bring high-speed
transmission, greater bandwidth and emerging technologies to rural areas
by late 2002.
"We are starting to have a discussion with private companies and other
public-sector people to see what business model we should use to move forward,"
said Adeel Lari, director of the Department of Transportation's Office of
Research Services. The state's DOT and Department of Administration led
Under the agreement, Denver-based developer International Communications
Services/Universal Communication Networks (ICS/UCN) was to entirely finance
the estimated $200 million project, which opened interstate and state highway
rights-of-way to fiber-optic installation.
However, the company was unable to obtain additional financing by a
Feb. 15 deadline. It had apparently laid down an estimated 250 miles of
the network and invested $30 million.
The project would have brought the state's public sector — elementary
and secondary schools, universities, libraries, and state and local governments
— access to 20 percent of network capacity and a future 20 percent.
The vast majority of the network would have been available to the private
sector, and the state hoped it would spur economic development, competition
among telecommunications providers and result in lower rates for businesses
and residential users.
"We were disappointed they could not finance it, but we understand the
economy has changed," Lari said.
The project, known as "Connecting Minnesota," has encountered construction
delays stemming from regulatory and legal challenges since negotiations
began in 1996.
Construction began in 1998 along Interstate 94, linking Moorhead, St.
Cloud and Minneapolis and then leading from Minneapolis to the Wisconsin
Lari said the state may change the scope and dimensions of the project
and possibly use more than one vendor. He hoped a decision would be made
within the next couple of months.