Rural Freeborn to receive broadband dollars

Published 9:53 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

Announcement part of $34M State appropriation

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development on Wednesday announced $34 million in broadband infrastructure grants across Greater Minnesota — including one grant that will affect Freeborn County.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

Forty-two projects will receive funding from the program. According to a press release, this will provide 16,627 households, 2,240 businesses and 71 community institutions across the state the access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet.

Email newsletter signup

In Freeborn County, Bevcomm received a $150,000 grant that will serve 10 unserved households, six unserved businesses, nine underserved households and six underserved businesses in the rural Freeborn area, the press release stated.

The total eligible project is about $377,000 with an about $226,000 match.

“Our students, small businesses, and others need high-speed internet to keep pace with the metro area,” said District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett.

The new state funding, approved during the 2016 legislative session, will help level the playing field for households and businesses in Greater Minnesota by providing them access the same opportunities available to urban area residents.

“It’s not fair when almost 20 percent of Greater Minnesota households don’t have access to opportunity because they don’t have the same broadband connections as their friends and family in the cities,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith.

She said the expansion of broadband has connected doctors to patients, students to school, people to jobs, and farmers and businesses to data and markets around the world.

Smith said she and Dayton will continue to advocate for high speed, affordable, reliable internet access during the 2017 legislative session until everyone is connected.

Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Program provides internet providers grants to expand broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. The funding pays for up to 50 percent of the cost of developing broadband for improved high-speed internet in communities across the state.

“These grants will make it possible for people, businesses and institutions throughout Greater Minnesota to have access to high-speed internet,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “Broadband is an important economic development tool that will improve people’s quality of life and make businesses more competitive.”