A major broadband upgrade is underway for the entire county. Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Inc., is providing fiber-optic broadband connectivity to every home and business on the electrical grid. Arrowhead will provide telephone and internet connectivity ranging from about 5 megabits per second upload and download up to 1 gigabit up and down.
Broadband connectivity and the county’s high quality of life combine to make Cook County an excellent location for a remote or home-based office. The Cook County Broadband Commission is working to ensure county residents and businesses are poised to make best possible use of this new broadband connectivity. Cook County is a demonstration community in the Blandin Foundation’s Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities project. This status brings additional broadband resources to Cook County in the form of grant dollars and training opportunities to prepare for broadband’s arrival.
The $20 million project is funded with received a $16 million grant/loan package from Rural Utilities Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cook County provides an additional $4 million from the county’s optional 1-percent sales tax. Arrowhead Electric began constructing its fiber-optic system in 2011 and hopes to have the entire county wired and online by 2013.
Telephone and Cell Service
Telephone service is provided by CenturyLink. Cell service comes primarily from Verizon and ATT. Cell tower upgrades are currently in progress by both AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
CenturyLink provides DSL service in Grand Marais, Hovland and Grand Portage. Some local businesses offer Wi-fi. Communities west of Grand Marais and on the Gunflint Trail presently are limited to dial-up and satellite connectivity. Satellite providers are HughesNet and Wild Blue. A local, nonprofit ISP, Boreal Access, offers Internet services and provides a compilation of local news and events via its listservs and website.
Law enforcement, fire protection and emergency medical services have recently upgraded their communications to an 800 Mhz system called Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER). The ARMER system provides coverage across Cook County, reduces dead spots and ensures maximum interoperability among county agencies and with state and federal agencies. Because of Lake Superior, the border with Canada and extensive national forest lands, federal enforcement agencies have a major presence in Cook County, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the various agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.