The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has awarded $19.4 million to help improve broadband connections in 17 areas around the state.
The grants will pay up to 50 percent of the cost of developing broadband connections for high-speed internet. Officials said the money should bring better internet to “6,095 households, 83 community institutions and 150 businesses in unserved or underserved regions of the state.”
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith lauded the grants, saying:
“Ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high-speed broadband Internet is critical to unleashing the next generation of dreamers and innovators. These new infrastructure investments will help Greater Minnesota communities compete in the global economy.”
The state received 40 applications for the available money, but could fund only about half of the requests. A team from DEED made the final choices, based on “percentage and number of unserved or underserved households and businesses in the project area, amount of funding requested, project readiness, project sustainability, community support and partnerships, the economy of the area, and technical assistance and other support available in each project area.”
DEED gave a quick look at the funded projects:
- Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area. Awarded $536,702 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 217 unserved premises in the Sauk Lake area, which is located primarily in Todd County (with some project area in rural Stearns County) just north of Sauk Centre. This is an unserved area where no wired broadband infrastructure is available. The full project cost is $1.07 million; the remaining $536,703 (50 percent) will be supplied by a private investment made by Arvig.
- CenturyLink Foley, Benton County–Balkan Township. Awarded $382,883 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 162 unserved households in Foley, Benton County and Balkan Township (near Chisholm in St. Louis County). The full project cost is $995,977. The remaining 62 percent match is to be provided by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) ($230,211 for the Balkan project) and CenturyLink ($382,883).
- Consolidated Telephone Cooperative (CTC), Region 5 Virtual Highway Project. Awarded $2 million to bring high-speed Internet to 247 unserved and 90 underserved premises in Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties. This is a shovel-ready first phase in a regional broadband development effort. The full project cost is $4.22 million. The remaining $2.22 million (53 percent) in matching funds will be supplied by a private investment made by CTC.
- Dunnell Telephone Co., City of Dunnell, Martin County. Awarded $625,000 as a 42 percent match for a $1.49 million project to build connections at state speed goals for 174 unserved households in Dunnell in Martin County. The remaining $867,650 (58 percent match) will be provided by Dunnell Telephone Co.
- Federated Telephone Cooperative, Big Stone County. Awarded $3.92 million to construct broadband infrastructure that will make service available to 1,072 unserved premises. The full project cost is $7.92 million; the remaining $4 million (51 percent) in matching funds will be raised through tax abatement bonds, with the county loaning the bond proceeds to Federated. This project will cover the north half of Big Stone County, as well as the western tract that runs from south to north surrounding the city of Ortonville. The area will include the communities of Barry, Beardsley and Johnson along with the rural parts of western and northern Big Stone County.
- Halstad Telephone Co., Halstad Tract MN 11902500 FTTH. Awarded $1.65 million to provide broadband service to 249 unserved locations in Polk County. The full project cost is $3.3 million; the remaining $1.65 million (50 percent) match will be provided by a private investment made by Halstad Telephone. This project surrounds the outskirts of Crookston on all sides except the west side. Halstad’s existing service area will help provide middle mile redundancy to the proposed project area.
- Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative (ITC), Hendricks Town FTTP. Awarded $700,000 to bring the town of Hendricks in Lincoln County service that surpasses state speed goals. Underserved customers that would benefit include 377 households and farms, 57 businesses, three home-based businesses and eight community anchor institutions. The full project cost is $1.87 million; the remaining $1.17 million (63 percent) match will be provided by a private investment made by ITC.
- Mediacom, Pintar Road. Awarded $137,848 to provide broadband services to 122 unserved homes and businesses on the southwest edge of the city limits of Hibbing. The full cost of this project is $275,697; the remaining $137,849 in matching funds (50 percent) will be provided by a private investment made by Mediacom.
- Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) – Frontier Communications Corp., Border to Border Phase I. Awarded $1.96 million for their Phase I project that extends fiber from NESC’s middle mile network to 877 unserved end users and to serving nodes. The total project costs are $4.35 million; the remaining $2.39 million (55 percent local match) will be provided by IRRRB ($1.5 million), Frontier ($750,000) and NESC ($135,000).The proposed project is in scattered locations in St. Louis County, including areas in and around Crane Lake, Alborn, Meadowlands, Brookston, Forbes, Kelsey, Soudan, Kabetogama, Ely and Tower.
- Otter Tail Telcom, Swan Lake West. Awarded $438,937 to expand existing infrastructure and bring fiber-to-the-home services to 110 unserved locations, including permanent residences with work-from-home employees near Swan Lake, on the outskirts of Fergus Falls, along the I-94 corridor. The total project costs are $877,874; the remaining $438,937 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.
- Otter Tail Telcom, Stuart Lake. Awarded $105,364 to expand existing infrastructure to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 47 unserved locations, including 46 homes and one business near Stuart Lake, just north of State Highway 210 and east of Fergus Falls (between Clitherall and Vining). Total project costs are $210,729; the remaining $105,365 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.
- Otter Tail Telcom, 245th. Awarded $108,553 to serve the northeastern outskirts of Fergus Falls near 245th Street. The project will expand existing infrastructure to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 39 unserved locations, including permanent residences and work-from-home employees. The total project costs are $217,105; the remaining $108,553 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.
- Palmer Wireless, Becker Industrial Park. Awarded $151,934 to deploy 3.4 miles of fiber passing 21 underserved businesses in the Becker Industrial Park (city of Becker) as well as to 12 vacant city-owned lots covering 70 acres. In addition, one of the vacant lots is the future site of the Northstar station. The total project costs are $303,870; the remaining $151,936 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Palmer Wireless via a line of credit.
- Rock County Broadband Alliance (RCBA), FTTP project. Awarded $5 million to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service for approximately 1,085 underserved and 265 unserved locations in Rock County. The total project costs are $12.85 million; the remaining $7.85 million (61 percent local match) will be provided by Alliance Communications Cooperative as an equity infusion to RCBA, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance. Locations include 1,261 households and farms, approximately 68 businesses and 21 anchor institutions in the Jasper, Beaver Creek and Hardwick town and rural areas surrounding Luverne.
- R-S Fiber Cooperative, FTTH Project. Awarded $1 million to bring fiber-to-the –home (FTTH) service to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville counties. Total project costs are $3.32 million; the remaining $2.32 million (70 percent local match) will be provided by a line of credit that R-S Fiber Telcom has committed and partner equity. This project is part of a larger cooperative project estimated at $38.46 million that will upgrade broadband services to several thousand locations in the region. Hiawatha Broadband Communications will provide operational capacity.
- Sjoberg Cable, Broadband Grant Proposal. Awarded $261,575 to provide broadband services to 107 unserved and 49 underserved locations using fiber-to- the-premise technology, predominantly in extremely rural and agricultural areas. The project would build-out in five areas in Roseau County near Roseau, Warroad and Salol. The total project costs are $523,150; the remaining $261,575 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Sjoberg’s Inc.
- Wikstrom Telephone, Kittson, Marshall, Roseau Broadband Extension. Awarded $425,000 to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 73 unserved and 43 underserved locations in Kittson (15 premises), Marshall (50 premises) and Roseau (51 premises) counties. The total project costs are $943,827; the remaining $518,827 (55 percent local match) will be provided by Wikstrom.