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DEED Awards Over $20.6 Million in Broadband Grants

Three grantees at virtual press conference discuss importance of broadband program in extending access to all Minnesotans

 

February 2, 2021



ST. PAUL – While the critical importance of reliable, high-speed broadband access has become even more obvious during the pandemic, there are still unserved and underserved areas of the state. To help close that gap, on Jan. 28, the state announced broadband grant awards for 39 projects designed to bring service to more than 6,900 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions in Minnesota.

This marked the sixth year of grants through the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program overseen by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and Broadband Director Angie Dickison joined three grantees at a recent virtual press conference to talk about the program and the difference it makes.

Those 39 state grants – totaling $20,645,425 – are matched by $33,695,279 in local funds, for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $54,340,704.

“This is very much a partnership of the public and private sectors wanting to get this done,” said Commissioner Grove. “The demand for this program is huge. We are by no means done with this journey. Governor Walz announced an additional $50 million proposal to expand and accelerate this grant program. This has been a major priority of his and we’re eager to work with legislators on it.”

Grantees talk about value of the program

Garden Valley Technologies received a $1.6 million award for a project in Northwest Thief River Falls and Euclid to provide service to 104 unserved and 22 underserved locations in portions of Marshall and Polk counties.

“At 1.3 locations per square mile, it’s tough to build that out and, without grant programs like this, it would be nearly impossible,” said Tim Brinkman, CEO and general manager of Garden Valley Technologies.

Brinkman talked about how an earlier broadband grant the company received enabled them to provide service to a 92-year-old woman who was living alone and to her granddaughter who lived nearby and ran a home-based business. Brinkman said having broadband access helped the granddaughter grow her business and allowed the grandmother to download books on her Kindle – a real quality-of-life issue for someone living alone.

“The family is very, very thankful,” said Brinkman. “So, thank you for the opportunity to continue providing these services to those unserved areas across the state.”

Mediacom Minnesota received two awards – a $624,751 grant to serve 267 underserved homes, six businesses and one community anchor in Hermantown in St. Louis County, and a $189,752 grant to serve 80 unserved households in Minnetrista in Hennepin County.

“We are really excited, we’re honored, we appreciate the responsibility the state of Minnesota, and DEED and the taxpayers have put on us, and we’ll deliver,” said Bill Jensen, group vice president of Mediacom Minnesota.

BEVCOMM (Blue Earth Valley Telephone Company, Easton Telephone Company & Cannon Valley Telecom) received two awards in the latest round of grants: a $1,182,818 grant for a project that will provide service to about two unserved households, 203 underserved households, 46 underserved businesses, and 181 underserved farms in portions of Faribault and Martin counties – and a $210,692 grant that will provide service to about 14 unserved and 94 underserved locations in portions of Rice, Waseca, and Steele counties.

Bill Eckles, CEO of BEVCOMM, said they survey people in an area before they move ahead with a project.

“From the letters we get, it’s just astounding the need out there,” he said. “I just want to say thank you for the two awards. I’m sure our customers are going to be extremely happy a year from now.”

High demand for program

Altogether, for FY21 funding, DEED received 64 separate applications requesting $42 million in funding during the latest grant application round. The grants announced on Jan. 28 bring the number of homes and businesses provided broadband access through the grant program since 2014 to a total of over 56,800.

Find out more about DEED’s Office of Broadband Development and about the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program, including a map of projects, and the state’s broadband goals.

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow us on Twitter.

 

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