New broadband grants include Northern MN projects

This map shows 2017 Border to Border Broadband grant projects superimposed over a map of broadband needs across Minnesota. (GRAPHIC: State of MN)

Today the State of Minnesota announced $26 million in grants for 39 projects in the Border to Border Broadband initiative. Almost 10,000 households will receive affordable access to high speed internet as a result of these investments.

“It’s not fair when almost 20 percent of Greater Minnesota households don’t have the same high-speed internet connections as their friends and family in the cities,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith in a press release. “The grants we are announcing today will help level the playing field and expand educational, health and job opportunities for thousands of Minnesotans. We have made important progress, but too many Minnesotans still lack access to the promise of the 21st Century. We must do more to ensure border-to-border high-speed internet access across Minnesota.”

Here in Northern Minnesota, project grants include the following, as quoted from a state press release on the matter (I bolded the communities served):

  • Carlton County w/ Frontier, Phase I: Cromwell/Kettle River – $569,058. This project will leverage federal CAF II funding available to Frontier Communications combined with State of Minnesota grant dollars to bring enhanced broadband to 298 currently unserved households in the western one-third of Carlton County, in and around the communities of Cromwell and Kettle River. The project will improve broadband service levels to the 2022 state speed goal of at least 25 Mbps download by 3 Mbps upload. Work, school, and family life will be vastly improved with students being able to do homework at home, along with expanded options for telecommuting and growing or starting businesses that require sufficient bandwidth to be competitive in local and world markets from this remote area. The total eligible project cost is $1,138,117, with a $569,059 local match.
  • CenturyLink, Fredenberg Township FTTH Project – $1,809,312. This last mile project will serve 835 unserved households and 17 unserved businesses with fiber-to-the-home in Fredenberg Township near Duluth in St. Louis County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, CenturyLink will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals in an area that for the most part, can currently obtain no more than 4 Mbps download speed. A state-of-the-art advanced broadband network will have a significant and positive impact on people in the project area. Consumers will be able to work from home, have better access to education and healthcare, and businesses will be better able to compete locally and globally. The total eligible project cost is $3,618,625, with a $ 1,809,313 local match.
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Brookston Project – $258,265. This last mile project will serve up to 108 unserved homes, 8 unserved businesses, and 1 community anchor institution in a project area in the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota. This area also includes the town of Brookston. A funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps down and 1 Gbps up, exceeding the 2026 state speed goals. It will also add needed additional network redundancy for the Fond du Lac Reservation. The fiber-to-the-home network will open up many opportunities such as telemedicine, Home Health Care, and improved and secure electronic health records; and online education and improved business development and more. All these factors will assist in creating a more vibrant community and region. The total eligible costs is $538,052, with a $279,787 local match.
  • Paul Bunyan Communications, North Central Fiber – $802,620. This last mile project will serve unserved and underserved areas near the communities of Park Rapids, Bigfork, and Side Lake, to locations in St. Louis, Itasca, and Hubbard Counties in northern Minnesota. This includes 657 unserved households, 29 unserved businesses, and 5 unserved community institutions, and 130 underserved households, 13 underserved businesses, and 1 underserved community institution. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Paul Bunyan will build fiber-to-the-premise that will bring gigabit service to all of these locations, greatly exceeding the 2026 state and current federal speed goals. This project will improve the economic vitality of the region and bring advanced technology to areas that would likely not see state-of-the-art services without opportunities such as the Border-to-Border Broadband grant. The total eligible cost is $1,783,600, with a $980,980 local match.
  • Savage Communications, Shamrock Township Broadband Expansion – $148,503. This last mile project will serve 374 unserved households near and around the Big Sandy Lake area in Aitkin County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, SCI Broadband will improve broadband service levels to 250 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, meeting and exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. SCI will leverage its existing middle mile infrastructure to deploy a last mile fiber to the premise network to local businesses and residents. Building the fiber to the premise network will improve access to education, telemedicine, telecommuting and economic development as a whole within the region. The total eligible cost is $297,006, with a $148,503 local match.

You can view a map of projects all over the state here. The state of Minnesota issued more than $85 million in broadband grants since 2014. This includes a grant that helped Paul Bunyan Communication install fiber optic lines to MinnesotaBrown World Headquarters here in Balsam Township.

“Access to quality, affordable broadband is a tool that levels the playing field for Minnesotans all across the state,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy in the state press release. “This funding, and the private investment leveraged from it, will soon allow even more individuals, communities and businesses the opportunity to access the internet at speeds that meet today’s demands.”

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