Huge demand for rural broadband Internet funding, so which MN cities applied?


Faster Internet is in such high demand in rural Minnesota that cities have put forward almost $30 million-worth of bids for a slice of state money available to improve broadband infrastructure.

But there's just $10.5 million available.

Some 44 applications were submitted to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for its latest round of broadband funding, according to a press release, but with limited funds available some cities will inevitably be left disappointed.

It led Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to call on the legislature to increase the amount available for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program in the next session, to help those who will lose out.

Last year, DEED handed out almost double the amount of grant money – around $19.4 million, according to the Pioneer Press.

Improving broadband in rural areas is seen as a crucial component in boosting local economies, and ensuring businesses don't fall too far behind those based in better served areas, such as the Twin Cities.

Under the program, local entities can use the funding to pay for up to 50 percent of expanding local broadband service in "unserved or underserved" areas of the state, with the maximum amount given to a single applicant $5 million.

Here's a look at Minnesota's broadband coverage from a state task force report earlier this year.

Who's applied for broadband funding?

Nine of the 44 applications were made by broadband provider CenturyLink, which wants to improve service in Mille Lacs, Morrison and Todd counties, to name a few.

Elsewhere, applications were submitted to improve access in the Winona County and Whitewater State Park Area, Medina, and areas of Fergus Falls and Brainerd.

Several townships are in the mix for funding too, with Long Lake Township applying for broadband cash, with other applications made for improvements in Long Prairie, Goodhue, Hutchinson and Palmer Township.

You can see a full list of the submitted applications here.

Over the coming weeks, the areas applying for the funding will be studied to see whether they actually need better broadband or whether their current service is fast enough.

The winning applications are expected to be announced in November.

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