REGIONAL- Two area broadband projects, one serving the Bois Forte Reservation, and another serving Morcom Township as part of a broader initiative involving Paul Bunyan Communications, were among 30 …
REGIONAL- Two area broadband projects, one serving the Bois Forte Reservation, and another serving Morcom Township as part of a broader initiative involving Paul Bunyan Communications, were among 30 projects awarded state funding from the Border-to-Border grant program.
Both projects have also received grant funding from the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation. Fewer than half the projects that submitted funding requests were successful in this round.
“This is big news for a small township today,” said Morcom Township Clerk Sasha Lehto. “This means our project can move ahead. We are very excited.” Lehto was instrumental to getting their township’s application for funding completed. The township has a $10,000 local match for the project, a big commitment from a rural township, she said. The project will extend broadband service to 126 unserved and underserved households in Morcom and the unorganized township to the north. Morcom Township is located about 13 miles southwest of Cook.
The combined project, which involves Paul Bunyan Communications, will provide one gigabyte-per-second service, both upload and download, to 914 unserved and 439 underserved locations in parts of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and rural portions of Cass, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties. The roughly $10 million fiber-to-the premise project is a response to consumer demand and will provide relief in economically distressed communities that need new alternatives to diversify and strengthen. Border-to-Border grant funding for the effort will total $6.27 million with matches from local units of government and the IRRR expected to total $3.7 million.
Meanwhile, the $3.75 million project on the Bois Forte Reservation will provide 100 megabyte-per-second download and 20 mps upload service to ten unserved and 468 underserved locations in four of the reservation’s sectors, including Vermilion, Nett Lake, Palmquist, and Indian Point. Border-to-Border funds will total $2.497 million while other funding partners, including the IRRR, Bois Forte, and the Mdewankanton Sioux community, will provide $1.25 million.
At a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced the first round of Border-to-Border grant recipients. The Legislature allocated $40 million last year as part of a two-year effort to expand broadband in hard to reach areas. The Office of Broadband Development received 70 applications for grants and funded 30 projects from across the state this year with the $20 million that was available. These funds are matched by $35,935,870 in local funds, for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $59,206,803.
“Fast, reliable broadband access is a critical economic development tool that improves quality of life and makes businesses in Greater Minnesota more competitive,” said Governor Walz. “These grants help us get closer to our goal to ensure that every Minnesotan has high speed internet access by 2022.”
“There’s no reason our students need to go to the nearest fast food restaurant or public library or coffee shop to get connected to public Wi-Fi to get their homework done,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls), chief author of the broadband funding bill in the MN House. “We need this investment in rural Minnesota to keep our communities vibrant and thriving.”
“The Border-to-Border Grant Program has a direct and immediate positive impact on people’s lives across rural Minnesota,” said Nancy Hoffman, Chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. “The grants will help students with their education, patients access healthcare, businesses reach customers, and job seekers find work. On behalf of the Coalition’s more than 90 members, I thank Governor Walz, Commissioner Steve Grove, Rep. Rob Ecklund, Sen. Mark Koran, and all the other legislative leaders who have made this funding possible.”