15 rural areas picked to benefit from $11M in broadband Internet funding

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The communities that will get a slice of $11 million in grants available for rural broadband projects in Minnesota have been revealed.

Competition for the state funding has been intense, with 44 applications sent in to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), totaling $30.5 million worth of projects.

DEED said the 15 approved projects will bring high-speed broadband to 3,222 households, 786 businesses and 90 community institutions throughout the state. In all cases the grants will fund parts of the projects, with the rest provided by the applicants themselves – which include telecom companies, local governments and community organizations.

"By gaining access to broadband, these rural communities will increase economic development, improve living standards and enhance education and public services," DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said. "While we are pleased to assist in the development of these projects, there are many other communities waiting to receive access to high speed Internet and additional resources are urgently needed."

DEED had to whittle down the applications to just 15 winners. Each get a share of the $11 million pot to improve broadband access in rural areas of the state where it's sorely needed.

It still represents a significant drop on the $19.5 million that was made available to rural communities last year, and is well short of the $200 million a task force set up by Gov. Mark Dayton suggested was needed to connect rural Minnesotans currently without access to high-speed broadband.

The winning projects are:

  • $149,625 to bring broadband to 43 homes and an agricultural business in rural Freeborn County.
  • $142,690 for high-speed internet to 30 unserved homes and farms in rural Winnebago, Faribault County.
  • $759,525 or broadband infrastructure serving 272 households in the Fort Ripley area.
  • $4.95 million to bring internet to 600 homes, 425 businesses and 75 community buildings in De Graff, Swift Falls and parts of Swift County.
  • $424,460 for infrastructure serving 114 homes, 20 businesses and a community building in Gentilly Township, Polk County.
  • $247,000 for Elba and Norton townships, including Whitewater State Park, in Winona County to improve access for 418 customers.
  • $584,100 for Broadband infrastructure between Little Fork and International Falls, benefiting 258 internet users.
  • $808,080 to improve services for 6,000 MVTV customers in 20 southwestern Minnesota counties and 3,000 farm-related businesses.
  • $244,073 to build out "middle and last-mile infrastructure" in Goodhue Township, in Goodhue County.
  • $295,432 to extend existing fiber cable at the north edge of Fergus Falls, serving 56 homes.
  • $164,207 for broadband infrastructure north of Fergus Falls, Otter Tail County, including areas north and south of Elizabeth.
  • $1.98 million for fiber broadband in Itasca County, including Balsam, Lawrence and Nashwauk townships and the former Iron Range Township that's now in the city of Taconite. Will benefit 1,193 homes and 53 businesses.
  • $189,990 to bring faster broadband to 93 homes, 14 businesses in Holmes City, Douglas County.
  • $189,525 for broadband in 162 homes and 43 businesses along Highway 71 in Wadena.
  • $314,450 for infrastructure in Witoka and Wilson, Winona County.

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