Residents of a subdivision near Gurnee Mills seek help for Lake County with high-speed internet

Residents in the unregistered Hunt Club Farms subdivision near Gurnee Mills are appealing to Lake County officials to help provide high-speed internet.

Whether this could happen or how it can be determined. But the decision to review potential avenues is welcome news for residents who say the service available is often inadequate at a time when the Internet has become essential.

“At least we have momentum and they’re giving us options, probably, to solve the problem,” Kent Kasten said. “It might give us some wiggle room.”

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

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

Kasten, who says he has been working on the issue for three years, has been presenting his case to the county council financial and administrative committee, which makes recommendations to the entire county council.

“This was brought to the fore once we went into pandemic lockdown,” he said. He added that high-speed service is gaining more importance with adults working from home and students learning remotely.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Kasten said the subdivision has been left out of consideration by Comcast because it is more than a mile from the connection, which is the maximum distance the company will extend the service at no charge.

He said the Homeowners Association has no $400,000 fee and no support for setting up a special service area in which each property owner pays a portion of the total.

Residents led by Kasten requested help to remedy the situation. An extension of the concession agreement was on the committee’s agenda Thursday. But rather than forward a recommendation to the full board for action on Tuesday, the committee unanimously postponed the matter until its October 6 meeting.

“At least, I want to make sure there’s nothing we can do,” said Carissa Caspon, a member of the county council. She is not a member of the committee but the division is in her district.

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

Assistant Attorney General Steve Rice said he couldn’t say how much leverage the county might have, but noted that there would be an unspecified cost associated with hiring professional legal counsel to press the issue.

Other possibilities include obtaining an informed opinion from someone who specializes in franchise agreements of this type or determining whether federal broadband funding or US bailout law is applicable.

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

“We need to do a little research,” he said. “The burden is on us.”

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

“There has to be something the County, we, and Comcast can live with that brings us service,” he said.

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