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Red Wing sees hope in new bid for fiber

Red Wing would stand to benefit if a Mankato-based communications company succeeds in its bid for stimulus money, which it would use to expand its fiber optic network.

Enventis, a subsidiary of Hickory Tech, has applied for $16.8 million in the federal government's second round of giveaways for fiber optic projects. If awarded the money, the company says it would use the cash to help fund a proposed $24 million project that would extend its fiber optic network to rural communities around the state, including Red Wing.

A company spokesperson said Enventis plans to build its fiber optic line into Red Wing and link it up to key institutions, such as Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and Goodhue County government buildings.

The project would not build a fiber network to homes in Red Wing, but it may entice another provider to do so. That's because a provider could build a citywide network and connect it to Enventis' line that extends around much of the state.

"It's a foot in the door. It's all very exciting," Red Wing Port Authority Director Myron White said.

City officials have coveted a fiber optic network for a number of years. They say they advanced communication technology could provide residents with very fast Internet service and it would serve as an economic development tool that could lure companies to Red Wing.

City officials had pinned their hopes to the bid Winona-based Hiawatha Broadband Communications made for stimulus money this spring. The company's bid was turned down in the first round of giveaways and the company decided not to apply in the second round.

White said port and city officials are exploring all their options and won't be dissuaded in their pursuit of a fiber optic network.

"We're going to keep on pushing on this until we get a solution," he said.