Broadband grants to benefit area counties

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development this week announced $20.6 million in broadband grants across the state for 39 projects designed to bring service to more than 6,900 businesses, homes and institutions.

This marked the sixth year of grants through the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program overseen by DEED.

The state grants will be matched by almost $33.7 million in local funds for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $54 million statewide.

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“This is very much a partnership of the public and private sectors wanting to get this done,” said DEED Commissioner Steve 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.”
Local areas to receive funding include the following:

• BEVCOMM (Blue Earth Valley Telephone Company, Easton Telephone Company & Cannon Valley Telecom) received two awards: first, a $1.18 million 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 second, 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 in a news release. “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.” 

Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association received a grant for $953,842 to bring service to 319 unserved locations, including 289 homes, 16 businesses, 11 farms and three community anchor institutions in the townships of Clark, Foster, Kiester, Seely, Alden, Carlston, Manchester, Mansfield and Pickerel Lake located in southeastern Faribault and western Freeborn counties. In a funding partnership with the state of Minnesota, Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association will bring 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload service capabilities to this part of southern Minnesota, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The local match is about $2.22 million.