Several Range-area communities to receive broadband

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (DFL-Minn.)

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (DFL-Minn.)

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will be on the Iron Range today to announce $2.3 million in broadband grants for communities around the Iron Range.

I’ve written recently about the slow warming to the economic potential of broadband here, where I’ve long argued the tremendous potential for entrepreneurship and education that this technology presents.

Today’s announcement is palpable progress toward an incomplete goal — a truly modern, comprehensive tech infrastructure that leads our small Iron Range communities and rural residential areas to new markets and international relationships.

From the press release:

ST. PAUL, MN – In the digital age, reliable internet access is an economic necessity. Today, Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced grants totaling $19.4 million to help communities across Minnesota develop this critical infrastructure. To discuss the importance of high speed broadband internet access, Lt. Governor Smith will hold a roundtable discussion in Chisholm, as part of a statewide broadband tour beginning this week.

Alas, Balsam Township is not on this list, but several underserved Range communities are a step closer to being able to purchase affordable high speed internet service.

HIBBING – DEED is providing Mediacom $137,848 to extend 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 will be provided by a private investment made by Mediacom.

Thanks to the new investment, residents will be able to access the latest telemedicine innovations and will be able to telecommute. The project also will lower costs business that need advanced services. Additionally, it will provide for future public-private partnerships with St. Louis County by leveraging the expanded fiber optic network.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY – DEED award $1.96 million to the Northeast Service Cooperative to extend broadband access to 877 businesses, nonprofits, and residences around Crane Lake, Alborn, Meadowlands, Brookston, Forbes, Kelsey, Soudan, Kabetogama, Ely and Tower. The total project costs are $4.35 million; the remaining $2.39 million will be provided by the IRRRB ($1.5 million), Frontier ($750,000), and NESC ($135,000).

This project will provide single office/home office businesses with greater speeds to improve operational capacity and bring reliable, steady connections to the Internet. It will also provide access to remote health care solutions that require higher capacity connections and will link citizens to educational resources and local school districts from their households.

BALKAN TOWNSHIP – To build broadband infrastructure near Balkan Township, DEED provided CenturyLink a $382,883 grant. Additional funding for the project is coming the IRRRB ($230,211) and from CenturyLink.

Because of the new investment, businesses in the project area will have access to increased broadband service. Community institutions including a fire department, community center and town hall, will be connected, as well as connectivity for lifelong learning opportunities.

I’m a little bummed that the old family junkyard in Zim (between Forbes and Kelsey) might get broadband access before the little house in the woods I built with sticks paid for by a proper education. Nevertheless, I am so pleased to see this progress that I won’t even complain.

For the rest of today, anyway.


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