BURNETT COUNTY -- Starwire Technologies of Siren asked the Grantsburg Village Board Monday to allow Starwire to expand its internet coverage in Grantsburg by placing up to five small antennas on the south water tower near Hwy. 70. Each antenna is about six inches in diameter and 24” long.

The tower-top installation would provide Grantsburg residents, businesses and others with another Internet Service Provider (ISP). Currently, the village’s only provider is Grantsburg Telcom.

Starwire’s owners, Sara McLain and Joe Cremin, told the board they have high respect for Grantsburg Telcom, but feel the public is best served when there is competition for services. “People have been asking us to expand in Grantsburg for quite some time,” McLain said. “People like to have options.”

Sara McLain and Joe Cremin speak with Grantsburg Village Board about expanding their Starwire Technologies internet service in Grantsburg

Broadband internet

Starwire has been in business 11 years, providing broadband internet service for many communities and rural areas in Burnett and Polk counties. They cover from Grantsburg to Hertel and from Danbury to Frederic.

Cremin said they already offer service in Grantsburg, but their present site isn’t high enough to reach all of the community.

From the south ridge along Hwy 70 down to Wood River, “Grantsburg is a natural bowl shape,” Cremin said.  “What we’re looking to do with the water tower up on the ridge is extend service farther down into village. The water tower would provide that elevation.”

They also asked to possibly install utility poles in some areas to expand their coverage into more of the community if they can’t strike a deal to use existing utility poles.

Antennae on water towers

Cremin said they usually receive permission to affix their antennas to existing tall structures like water towers, rooftops, silos and communication or power poles when available. Starwire has equipment installed on water towers in Danbury, Siren, two in Frederic, and a municipal tower at the Webster Community Center.

They said using existing structures helps Starwire keep its costs down for consumers while providing internet service to areas which previously had no broadband internet coverage, or only one internet service provider, as in Grantsburg.

At Monday’s board meeting, they proposed fastening their antennas to the metal safety ring around the top of the water tower. No welding would be involved. They would like to add equipment to the village’s north water tower too, but it doesn’t have the safety ring so there is nowhere to attach it.

More research

A few days prior to the meeting, Starwire emailed copies of their standard operating agreement to the village board members for their review, but the broadband internet concept was new to several of the Grantsburg board members. They asked Public Works Director Chris Bartlett for his take on the water tower installation.

Bartlett said the Grantsburg Fire Department has an antenna on the water tower now, but Cremin assured the board their equipment would not interfere with other communications equipment or frequencies.

Bartlett said more wires hanging from tower-top to ground may interfere with painting, but conceded it was unlikely the tower would need painting for many years. Cremin responded their wires would follow existing paths down the tower. Bartlett said he would like to look into it more before the board takes action.

Trustee Greg Peer, who chaired the meeting, said he would like to table the measure for a month or more to allow Bartlett to speak with other communities about using water towers for this purpose, and the rest of the board agreed to table it for now.

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