As part of an initiative to make high-speed internet more available in rural Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz announced more than $23 million in grant money Tuesday.
In total, 41 counties and reservations will benefit from telecoms projects funded by the grant money, which is being matched by local funding.
The funds are part of the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant program. DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said improved broadband in greater Minnesota is important for increased economic inclusion.
“You simply can’t participate in the innovation sector — or almost any sector of the economy today, for that matter — without high speed access to the internet,” Grove said in a statement. “These grants help us reach that last mile of service in Minnesota and our goal to be a model state where you don’t have to move to a metro area to participate in the 21st century economy.”
The program, in its fifth year, has provided broadband access to around 49,000 homes and businesses since 2014, with the funding announced this week expected to benefit a further 10,900 homes and businesses.
The state’s ultimate goal is to ensure all homes and businesses have access to broadband with a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second by 2022.
Among the grants approved is $1.151 million for Wikstrom Telephone in northwest Minnesota, which is being matched by $1.4 million in local funding.
It will be used to upgrade 316 currently unserved locations across five counties: Kittson, Marshall, Lake of the Woods, Pennington, and Roseau.
This will improve broadband leaves up to 1 Gbps download and upload, exceeding the state's 2022 and 2026 speed goals.
One of the largest grants is going to Paul Bunyan Communications, which is receiving $2.5 million – combined with $3.7 million of local funding – to upgrade 914 unservedand 439 underserved areas in the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and rural parts of Cass, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis counties.
Broadband access was a prominent topic of the last legislative session, with Walz approving $40 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development program.
These are the counties and reservations that will benefit from the funding:
Bois Forte Reservation
Carlton County (project for Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)
Crow Wing County
Lake of the Woods County
Le Sueur County
Mille Lacs County
Otter Tail County
St. Louis County