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Internet and New Wireless News

Bertram Communications will make use of county towers in Gresham, Leopolis
Tim Ryan
Shawano County has reached an agreement with Bertram Communications for the use of two county towers that will be key to providing rural broadband access in western areas of the county.
Bertram Communications, Random Lake, is partnering with Shawano County Economics Progress, Inc. (SCEPI) to serve rural areas in the county with high-speed internet.
The project cost is over $680,000, with $274,000 coming from a state grant that SCEPI secured.
Bertram has already installed equipment to serve some portions of the county, including equipment located on silos and other structures. The county has not been involved in those other, third-party agreements.
The public safety committee Tuesday approved the agreement that will let Bertram install equipment on the county’s communication towers in Gresham and Leopolis.
One of the main sticking points during negotiations was potential interference with the county’s 911 system.
Emergency Management Director Jim Davel said the original proposal didn’t address what would happen if Bertram’s equipment caused 911 interference.
Davel said the agreement calls for Bertram’s equipment to come down if that happens.
“They’re going to get their own metering at both locations,” Davel said.
The five-year agreement also calls on Bertram to do its own installation and maintenance.
There were also questions about whether the Gresham tower could handle what the county already has installed plus the addition of Bertram’s equipment.
Davel said the county has two microwave dishes on the Gresham tower that it no longer needs.
It will cost about $6,000 to remove them, Davel said, with Bertram doing that work for the county in lieu of a fee for their use of the tower.
“I think overall it’s been a very good process that we’ve gone through,” Davel said. “I think the county is positioned properly and our concerns have been met.”
The county tower that Bertram will make use of in Leopolis will actually be a new structure being put up by US Cellular at no cost to the county, replacing a tower that is one of the oldest in the county’s communication system.
According to Davel, it would have cost the county about $100,000 to remove the old tower and $300,000 for the new one.
The county will retain all rights to the land and the new tower, which, in addition to US Cellular’s equipment, will have three spaces set aside for the county, one of which will be leased to Bertram.
The new tower is expected to start going up in September.
Mark Dodge, Bertram’s director of business development, said the rural broadband project is now about 30 percent complete, but the Gresham and Leopolis agreements will make a big impact on expanding that.
“This really is a milestone to connect the western side of the county,” he said.
The towns of Seneca, Morris, Almon, Red Springs, Pella and Herman are all expected to benefit from Bertram’s use of the Gresham and Leopolis towers.
The eastern end of the county is already covered, Dodge said, and coverage is in place from County Road MMM through Cecil, with the town of Belle Plaine “ready to go live” shortly.
The rural broadband project comes at a cost of more than $680,000, with $274,000 coming from a state grant that Shawano County Economic Progress Inc. secured. Bertram is funding $367,511 toward the project’s infrastructure and $39,000 is coming from local townships, businesses and citizens, according to the grant application.
Dodge said the project will cover roughly 2,388 households and between 80 and 110 businesses.
“I think for economic development, this is an important project,” said Dennis Heling, SCEPI’s chief economic development officer. “We have businesses out in rural areas, we have a lot of farms, so we’re really thinking this is going to help.”