Even before the pandemic, access to high speed internet broadband service was a 'need' not a 'want'.  But with large numbers of people working and schooling from home over the last year - even some of the time - that need has become even more apparent.

As Northland communities move to shore up their broadband connections for residents, officials with Douglas County prep for ways that they can help out.  And at the same time, they're prepping how to offer that help fairly and systematically.

A plan recently drafted by the Douglas County Administration Committee would offer some of the American Rescue Plan Act dollars towards the cause.  However, that plan comes with a more-systematic way of dealing with any requests that come in.

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That approach would be multi-level and be applied to each request as it comes in - at least according to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall]:

"Rather than provide assistance in a way that is haphazard and unfair...[the proposal would] set aside a portion of the county's federal allocation to create a matching grant program to help towns and villages pay for their share of costs associated with broadband grants."

Douglas County  Board Chairman Mark Liebaert was careful to point out that the county wouldn't be financing broadband expansion; instead, there would be a "cap....at $50,000".  Those communities applying for the help would "have to be in the process of submitting an application for state or federal grant funding; the county [wouldn't be paying] for exploration to expand broadband". Any eventual dollars allotted from the county would only come if those local communities "are successful in getting grants".

Application forms would be developed and specific county personnel would be assigned with the task of reviewing each application and reporting to the County Board.  Taken as a whole, the process would provide complete accountability for all parties involved.

The next step for the proposal is a review before the full Douglas County Board at their next meeting on March 17.

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