Mankato’s high speed, fiber optic network will get a major boost, while also bringing a new competitor to the city’s private-sector broadband market under an agreement between the city, Blue Earth County and Owatonna-based Jaguar Communications.
Jaguar Communications, Inc. was founded in 1999 by a group of seven forward-minded people with the intent to provide advanced telecommunications services to a six-county area of Southeastern Minnesota. Mankato is a city in Blue Earth, Nicollet, and Le Sueur counties in the State of Minnesota. Mankato is the fourth largest city in Minnesota outside of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area by population. Mankato and North Mankato have a combined population of over 53,000. The county seat of Blue Earth County, it is located along a large bend of the Minnesota River at its confluence with the Blue Earth River. Mankato is across the Minnesota River from North Mankato.
The agreement will involve installing underground about 11 kilometers of fiber optic communication infrastructure along a “south fiber ring” from the far eastern edge of Mankato, south along Highway 22, west along Stadium Road and to downtown along Stoltzman Road and Riverfront Drive. Fiber, which allows large amounts of data to be transmitted at very high speeds, is already in place from downtown to the far east side along a “north fiber route” that runs mostly along Marsh Street and Madison Avenue.
Like the north fiber route, the new fiber installation was spurred by local governments with the help of the state of Minnesota. The governments’ interest involves connecting the most city, county and state buildings with a ring of fiber optic cable, which will create a backup route for communications even if either the northern or southern cable is accidentally severed or otherwise disrupted.
Another government fiber route runs along Victory Drive from the far northeastern edge of Mankato to Balcerzak Drive to Minnesota State University. Government buildings along the ring include the county Justice Center at the eastern city limits of Mankato, the county highway department off of Stadium Road, the courthouse and County Government Center on Fifth Street, the city public works center at Victory and Hoffman Road, the city Public Safety Center on Front Street, the MSU campus, the Intergovernmental Center (which includes city and school district offices), city fire stations and state offices in Mankato Place downtown.
The upcoming cable installation is the latest in a decades-long effort to bring high-speed, reliable communications between government buildings. The first fiber was laid between downtown buildings in 1998, followed by the north fiber route in 2008. The value of the work has been estimated at $450,000. While Jaguar is placing fiber for the local governments, it also will be laying parallel fiber of its own that the company will use to enter the Mankato private sector telecommunications marketplace.
The company also will provide maintenance of the system over a 20-year contract approved by the council and county board this week. Charlie Berg, Storm’s counterpart at Blue Earth County, said the value of the maintenance services provided by Jaguar is roughly $30,000 a year, which means it would approach $600,000 in value over the length of the contract.