NESC and Blandin Foundation received $200,000 for broadband

We have fun news to announce about another award we have received with the Northeast Service Cooperative. (I’ll post the full press release below.) We are excited to partner with NESC on this grant. We are committed to working hard together to maximize the benefits of these federal investments for the NE MN communities we serve. NESC’s experience in regional planning and in building collaborative partnerships makes them uniquely qualified to oversee this project.

Also I want to quick congratulate the other Minnesota award recipient – the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe ¬received an award of $47,380. We look forward to hearing more about their grant.

Here is our official announcement…


MOUNTAIN IRON – The Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) and Blandin Foundation will receive $200,000 in federal funding for regional broadband development planning in northeastern Minnesota.

Also partnering with this initiative are Fond Du Lac Reservation, Bois Forte Reservation and Grand Portage Reservation, with project coordination and support by Compass Consulting Inc., NorthSpan, Nordvold Consulting and Cronin Communications.

“High-speed broadband connectivity is important to our region and critical to economic development initiatives especially in the underserved or unserved communities,” said Lyle MacVey, IT director at NESC.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that NESC and Blandin Foundation received a Technical Assistance Grant through its Broadband Initiative Program. The NESC and Blandin Foundation applied in June for funding, which was available to round one awardees of stimulus funding.

Funding will enable design, engineering and implementation of a broadband technology plan that will meet the current and future needs of the region. It will specifically address how the region can use broadband infrastructure as a strategy to facilitate expansion of market opportunities for small business and local entrepreneurship, and to support broadband utilization through a region-wide approach.

“A key Blandin Foundation initiative is to make sure Minnesota’s rural communities have access to broadband technology needed for improved quality of life and economic competitiveness,” said Jim Hoolihan, president and CEO of Blandin Foundation. “Competitive rural economies demand connected rural communities. That’s why, with partners like the Northeast Service Cooperative, the Blandin Foundation has tapped national grants to help rural Minnesota make the most of the Internet.”

Planning will address needs in portions of eight counties in northeastern Minnesota including Pine, Carlton, St. Louis, Itasca, Lake, Cook, Koochiching and Aitkin that are considered underserved and unserved.

The project design will focus on implementing a market study to determine business, economic, and broadband needs, developing an engineering design for a regional broadband network, and creating a pro forma financial analysis of a proposed future loan. The project will result in the development of broadband engineering models for connecting the majority of communities and expanding the future of market opportunities for small business. Private sector experts in engineering, project management, and finance will lead each phase.

The region is poised to design and implement this type of plan with the recent successful awards of a $43.5 million grant/loan to the NESC for 915 mile fiber optic middle mile project and the Blandin Foundation’s award of a $4.5 million grant, that will enable the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities coalition to bring a network of resources to support rural individuals and communities.

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