Residents in subdivision near Gurnee Mills seek Lake County’s help on high-speed internet

Residents in the unincorporated Hunt Club Farms subdivision near Gurnee Mills are appealing to Lake County officials for help in making high-speed internet available.

Whether or how that can happen is to be determined. But a decision to review possible avenues is welcome news for residents who say available service often is inadequate at a time when internet has become essential.

“At least we’ve got traction and they’re giving us options, potentially, to solve the problem,” said Kent Kasten. “It might give us some wiggle room.”

High-speed internet has been an issue for residents in the 120-home subdivision as the county considers renewing its 10-year franchise agreement with Comcast, which expires in October.

County staff and the state’s attorney’s office have been negotiating with the company and recommended renewal for another 10 years.

Kasten, who says he has been working on the issue for three years, has been making his case to the county board’s financial and administrative committee, which makes recommendations to the full county board.

“This was thrust into the forefront as soon as we went into the lockdown for the pandemic,” he said. High-speed service has taken on greater importance with adults working from home and students learning remotely, he added.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Kasten said the subdivision has been excluded from consideration by Comcast because it is more than a mile from a connection, the maximum distance the company will extend the service without a charge.

He said the homeowner’s association doesn’t have the $400,000 fee and there isn’t support for creating a special service area in which each property owner would pay a portion of the total.

Residents led by Kasten have asked for help to address the situation. Extending the franchise agreement was on the committee’s agenda Thursday. But instead of forwarding a recommendation to the full board for action Tuesday the committee unanimously deferred the matter until its Oct. 6 meeting.

“At the very least, I want to make sure there’s nothing we can do,” said county board Member Carissa Casbon. She’s not on the committee but the subdivision is in her district.

“The environment is different now,” she added. “Since COVID. high-speed internet is no longer a luxury.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Rice said he couldn’t quantify how much leverage the county may have but noted there would be an undetermined cost associated with hiring specialized legal counsel to press the issue.

Other possibilities include getting an informed opinion from someone whose specialty is in franchise agreements of this type or determining if federal broadband or American Rescue Plan Act funding may be applicable.

Committee member Michael Danforth said there are some things only government can do.

“We need to do a little bit of research,” he said. “The onus falls on us.”

Built in the mid-1980s, Hunt Club Farms has DSL service through another provider but performance decreases based on distance from the distribution point, Kasten said.

“There’s got to be something the county, us, and Comcast can live with that brings service to us,” he said.

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