ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has awarded more than $1 million for state grants to expand broadband access in Hanska as well as Redwood and Renville counties..
“Broadband access is critical for folks who want to do business in Greater Minnesota, and these grants will allow this to happen,” Torkelson said. “I commend those who worked together and made these grants a reality.”
Torkelson noted $200,397 will be used to serve 14 unserved households and 32 unserved businesses in Lake Hanska Township in Brown County and Riverdale Township in Watonwan County. New Ulm Telephone will improve service levels in an area populated with farms and home-based businesses.
An $807,966 grant in Renville County will serve 193 unserved households, 99 unserved businesses and th3ree community anchor institutions in portions of Preston Lake, Boon Lake, Brookfield, Osceola, Kingman, Winfield, Crooks, Erickson, Sacred Heart (North), Emmet, Flora, Henryville, Norfolk, Birch Cooley, Camp and Cairo townships in Renville County. Hiawatha Broadband Communications and RS Fiber will provide improved services that officials hope will stimulate business and population growth.
15 unserved households and 20 unserved businesses near Morgan will be covered thanks to a $27,998 grant. Arvig–Redwood Telephone will improve service levels to this rural area, which is home to Minnesota’s annual FarmFest and relies on quality broadband service for precision agriculture applications and to monitor crops and livestock.
Torkelson said thanks to GOP-led efforts, $32 million of the $35 million in grants were targeted toward unserved areas of the state. Additionally, because of policy reforms to the program, the Minnesota State Broadband fund leveraged Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) federal broadband funding to amplify connectivity into rural areas of the state. In total, Minnesota is expected to see half a billion dollars in combined state and federal broadband funding between 2015 and 2021.
The legislature approved a total of $45 million in broadband grants during the 2015 and 2016 legislative session. When combined with federal CAF II funds, Minnesota will see more than $100 million in broadband expansion this year alone.
In all, 71 Greater Minnesota communities receive a state grant to expand broadband access.