ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, announced the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development recently awarded grants totaling $20.6 million for 39 projects in the sixth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program.
State grant dollars are matched by $33.7 million in local funds, for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $54.3 million.
“I am pleased to again see that broadband funding we fought so hard for is reaching our area,” Lueck said. “The state Border-to-Border Broadband program continues to be a bi-partisan effort led by rural legislators to build out rural internet service into the unserved and underserved areas in Minnesota.”
The following grants were awarded in the Crow Wing, Aitkin County and Mille Lacs County areas:
- Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) – Stark-Ross Lake Area – GRANT $350,805. This last mile project will serve approximately 180 unserved locations in a portion of Ross Lake Township in Crow Wing County. Building this high-speed broadband network will enable students to better access educational resources, families to communicate with loved ones, businesses to grow and thrive, aging residents to live longer and healthier lives, and workers to telecommute and be more productive employees. Total eligible project cost is $701,610; local match is $350,805.
- Crosslake Communications – O'Brien/Goodrich Lake Fiber Project – GRANT $618,970. This last mile O’Brien/Goodrich Lake Fiber Project will serve approximately 232 unserved households in Crow Wing County. The use and development of this broadband will provide home-based business options, stimulate economic growth, innovation and investment as well as improve education, health care, energy efficiency, and public safety for the residents of the project area. Total eligible project cost is $1,547,424; local match is $928,454.
- Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) – Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative Phase 4 FTTH – GRANT $198,607. This fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project will serve 80 unserved and five underserved locations along the southeast side of Farm Island Lake in Aitkin County. With access to a high-quality dependable communications infrastructure, residents in the project area will realize expanded educational, economic and healthcare opportunities. Total eligible project cost is $441,350; local match is $242,743.
- Savage Communications Inc. (SCI) – Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (Onamia) Broadband Expansion – GRANT $70,261. This last mile fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project will serve 102 unserved households within the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation in Mille Lacs County. SCI will leverage its existing middle mile infrastructure to deploy a last mile fiber solution, improving access to education, telemedicine, telecommuting, and economic development for the project area. Total eligible project cost is $140,522; local match is $70,261.
Lueck is co-author on bi-partisan legislation that would provide funding to continue this important program in the next two-year state budget. He said the current pandemic illustrated how critical reliable effective broadband coverage is to rural Minnesotans. He indicated that, unlike the larger population centers of our state, in rural Minnesota the ability to work from home, conduct tele-medicine, video conference and conduct K12 educational activities online can be difficult at best and in many cases not an option due to lack of broadband infrastructure coverage.
More info on this program can be found at: https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/.