MURRAY COUNTY – The Murray County Board of Commissioners convened a special session earlier this week to discuss options for funding broadband in Murray County and US bailout spending.
Based on a 2018 feasibility study, estimates indicate it would cost more than $21 million to bring broadband to Murray County, a task that was deemed unfeasible without private partnership, several rounds of grants, or both. The same study found that, if broadband were available, approximately 2,690 customers would take advantage of the service.
“I think there are a lot of benefits to doing that,” said Jason Lorenz, who met with the board to discuss broadband options.
Funding options would include grants such as the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant, which will match up to 50% of the project cost, up to $5 million.
“We’re really pressed for time right now,” Commissioner Molly Malone noted of the June 23 deadline for the grant application.
Murray County currently has $500,000 set aside in ARPA funds that can be used. Other grants in the 30% to 40% matching range were also discussed, recognizing that most would require approval. Most grants will require a financial commitment from a local government.
The council decided to apply for the border-to-border grant while using $500,000 in ARPA funds as the county’s investment requirement, and see how much area they could cover with those funds. In the meantime, they said they would take up the matter further at a meeting on June 21, if more funding was needed. The board also suggested considering partnering with internet service providers such as Woodstock Communications and Lismore Telecom for a joint grant project.
Commissioner Lori Gunnick noted that without broadband, Murray County would likely continue to experience population decline.
“Without broadband, this will continue,” she said. “With broadband, we have the potential to attract people.”