Local broadband projects get state grant funding

Local broadband projects get state grant funding
FILE PHOTO: Windom became the state’s first city to operate a municipal fiber-to-the-home network between 2004 and 2005. (Source: Holly Bernstein)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is awarding $23,270,933 in Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program funds to 30 broadband projects across the state. DEED says the projects will bring high-quality broadband access to underserved and unserved areas of Minnesota, providing fast, reliable internet access for more than 10,900 businesses, homes, and community institutions.

During the 2019 legislative session, Governor Walz signed into law a total of $40 million in one-time funds for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program in 2020 and 2021. Altogether, DEED received requests for $70 million in funding for 80 different applications during the latest grant application round.

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is primarily targeted towards communities in Greater Minnesota, where broadband infrastructure is not as likely to be at a level that is needed to support economic equity. A map of projects awarded grants in 2020 is posted on DEED’s website.

The State of Minnesota has set a goal for universal access and high-speed internet so that by no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second. And by no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

Details about projects awarded grants in southern Minnesota this year are listed below.

BEVCOMM (Eckles Telephone Company) – Le Sueur County Project – GRANT $1,857,376

This last mile project will upgrade approximately 417 unserved households, 88 unserved farms, 59 unserved businesses, and 4 community anchor institutions in rural areas around the communities of Montgomery, Heidelberg, and New Prague in Le Sueur, Rice, and Scott Counties. In a fundin41g partnership with the State of Minnesota and Le Sueur County, BEVCOMM will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. Sustainable broadband adoption will transform these unserved areas into highly-productive rural communities. This use and development of broadband will provide various home-based business options, stimulate economic growth, and stimulate innovation and investment. Education, health care, agriculture, energy efficiency, and public safety will improve with high-speed Internet access.

Total eligible project cost is $3,714,752 Local match is $1,857,376

BEVCOMM (Blue Earth Valley Telephone Company & Easton Telephone Company) – Rural Faribault County Project – GRANT: $579,781

This last mile project will upgrade approximately 112 unserved and six underserved households, 50 unserved farms, and eight unserved businesses in areas of Faribault and Martin Counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Faribault County Economic Development Authority, BEVCOMM will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. Sustainable broadband adoption will transform these unserved areas into highly-productive rural communities.

Total eligible project cost is $1,449,451 Local match is $869,670

Midco (Midcontinent Communications) - Renville Project – GRANT $230,835

This last mile project will upgrade approximately 644 unserved households and 33 unserved businesses, farms and community anchor institutions in areas of the town of Renville in Renville County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Midco will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 20 Mbps upload, meeting or exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The broadband network will improve access to e-learning applications, and rural health care resources; make agricultural operations more efficient; and will stimulate a more robust local area economy.

The total eligible cost is $923,338 Local match is $692,503

MVTC (Minnesota Valley Telephone Company, Inc.) – Rural Lucan Fiber Project – GRANT $635,400

This middle and last mile project will upgrade approximately 23 unserved households, 99 unserved farms, and three unserved businesses in portions of Vesta, Granite Rock, Johnsonville, Waterbury, Westline, and Vail Townships in Redwood County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, MVTC will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. Sustainable broadband adoption will transform these unserved areas into highly productive rural communities, including the ability to make full use of precision agriculture advancements. Education, health care, energy efficiency, and public safety will improve with high-speed internet access.

Total eligible cost is $1,412,000 Local match is $776,600

Nuvera Communications, Inc. – New Ulm SW Project – GRANT $385,600

This last mile project will serve 51 unserved households, 13 unserved businesses, and 64 unserved farms in the New Ulm area in Brown County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Nuvera Communications, Inc. will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. This fiber-to-the-premises network will provide reliable, affordable, high quality broadband to rural farms, businesses, and homes. Broadband access will enable these businesses and residences to utilize new technology and tools to grow and enhance their business and community. Residents will also have increased access to health care and education, that will allow them to thrive in a modern world.

Total eligible cost is $1,101,713 Local match is $716,113

This is the fifth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. The grants announced today bring the number of homes and businesses provided broadband access through the grant program since 2014 to a total of 49,900.

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