Minnesota network stalls

Minnesota state officials recently terminated an agreement with a developerwho ran out of money halfway though installation of a 2,200-mile fiber-opticnetwork.

The network was to be a boon to half the state's population — peopleliving outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Officials hopedto bring high-speed transmission, greater bandwidth and emerging technologiesto rural areas by late 2002.

"We are starting to have a discussion with private companies and otherpublic-sector people to see what business model we should use to move forward,"said Adeel Lari, director of the Department of Transportation's Office ofResearch Services. The state's DOT and Department of Administration ledthe project.

Under the agreement, Denver-based developer International CommunicationsServices/Universal Communication Networks (ICS/UCN) was to entirely financethe estimated $200 million project, which opened interstate and state highwayrights-of-way to fiber-optic installation.

However, the company was unable to obtain additional financing by aFeb. 15 deadline. It had laid down an estimated 250 miles of the networkand invested $30 million.

The project would have given the state's public sector access to 20percent of the new network's capacity with another 20 percent availablelater. The majority of the network would have been available to the privatesector.

Lari said the state may change the scope and dimensions of the projectand possibly use more than one vendor. He hoped a decision would be madewithin the next couple of months.

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