The conservative Freedom Foundation of Minnesota studied requests for broadband stimulus funds in the state and found what they call “dubious projects,” including “a $5.2 million proposal by the city of Minneapolis that includes a provision to provide laptops or iPod Touches to “underserved” residents, courtesy of taxpayers.”
Says the group:
Other highlighted proposals include a $2.8 million University of Minnesota proposal that makes the bold claim that it will eliminate “the disparity in broadband awareness and use” and “close the Digital Divide” in four Twin Cities poverty zones.
Tom Steward of the fundation said information about the requests is at Broadband USA, where communities applied for the grants.
Other findings, the foundation said, include:
- The city of Windom, still striving to cash flow the city’s five year old public fiber optics network, wants $12.7 million to expand the struggling system to seven nearby communities. Minutes from Windom City Council meetings indicate the system “has been a drag” on city finances, losing $233,000 in 2008, and stating that “the stimulus project has the potential to contribute some revenues to Windomnet.”
- It would cost taxpayers nearly $10,000 per connection just to provide service to Cook County’s 3,400 households and businesses. To put the $33 million proposal in context, North St. Paul voters recently overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to spend about $4,000 per household.
- The University of Minnesota boasts that its $2.8 million project will flat out eliminate “the disparity in broadband awareness and use” and “close the Digital Divide” in four Twin Cities poverty zones.
- Lake County seeks to be the first rural county fiber network in the U.S. to connect every home and institution that is currently served by wired telephone or electrical service. The $33 million blueprint costs about $3,100 for every man, woman and child in Lake County. In an apparent claim that Lake County’s 10,609 residents do not pay federal income taxes, the county website states that “no taxpayer funds will be pledged to fund the network.”
- The overall costliest plan at $65 million calls for connecting some 8,500 central Minnesota households and businesses in Todd, Morrison, and Mille Lacs counties within five years at an average cost of about $7,600 per subscriber.