Scott County leaders: Fiber optics untapped

Scott County must consider taking advantage of its 90-mile ultra-high-speed fiber optic ring to jump start the job growth it will need to continue to prosper, the county administrator is telling civic leaders.

“Our network connects us in multiple ways across the entire country,” Gary Shelton told a gathering in Prior Lake on Friday. “That’s something many communities can’t say.”

The county has the equivalent, for computer data, of numerous highway lanes sitting unused, he added. “We haven’t lit most of it up yet — only five to 10 percent. Most is for future use. It’s a publicly built digital highway that everyone should use.”

The push coincides, said Prior Lake Mayor Mike Myser, with renewed interest in that community in attracting jobs.

“We’ve pushed people away before,” said Myser, elected to the office last fall, “but today we’re open for business. We’re reviving an economic development side that has been moribund for a while. It’s now our Number 1 priority. And there’s no question broadband has to be part of the package we offer.”

There’s a growing concern across the county about the prospects for getting new bridges built across the Minnesota River to major job clusters in Hennepin and Carver counties. Leaders fear the county will languish as congestion thickens unless it can bring jobs inside its borders or allow local people to avoid those clogged roads altogether using broadband technology.

“A data highway can take people off the real highway and reduce costs for businesses and government,” County Commissioner Jon Ulrich told a breakout group in a conference room after Shelton’s pitch to a bigger group of dozens.

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