MN Broadband Fund Award: A closer look around Northeast Service Cooperative (St Louis County)

OBD fund graphicAlmost $20 million in state grants have gone to 17 communities in Minnesota to expand broadband and make the case to legislators (and the general public) that such investments are wise and have a valuable Return on Investment. I wanted to delve into each project a bit to help us follow the money as it gets deployed. (See other awardee posts.)

Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) – Frontier Communications Corp., Border to Border Phase I. Awarded $1.96 million for their Phase I project that extends fiber from NESC’s middle mile network to 877 unserved end users and to serving nodes. The total project costs are $4.35 million; the remaining $2.39 million (55 percent local match) will be provided by IRRRB ($1.5 million), Frontier ($750,000) and NESC ($135,000).The proposed project is in scattered locations in St. Louis County, including areas in and around Crane Lake, Alborn, Meadowlands, Brookston, Forbes, Kelsey, Soudan, Kabetogama, Ely and Tower.

Community and Economic Development Impact:This project will provide single office/home office businesses with greater speeds to improve operational capacity and bring reliable, steady connections to the Internet. It will also provide access to remote health care solutions that require higher capacity connections and will link citizens to educational resources and local school districts from their households.

I nearly combined this with the post on Mediacom’s award, also set in St Louis County (on Pintar Road). But NESC is a little bit of a different kettle of fish, because they have primarily been middle mile broadband extension in Northeast Minnesota. Here’s a description I borrowed from their website a few years ago…

The Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project will make broadband services viable for a vast geographic region, creating an initial backbone that will serve hundreds of sites along 915 miles of fiber within eight counties including St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, Carlton, Pine, Itasca, and Aitkin.

NESC received ARRA funding in 2010. They have been working to build that backbone and have partnered with a number of third party broadband providers who provide residential services. It looks like this project will allow them to continue to work in the same direction.

You can learn more about the general state of broadband in ST Louis County on the earlier most on Mediacom’s award.)

Just to help track progress, here are some recent stats on St Louis County:

On broadband (Connect MN final stats from 2014):

  • Household Density: 12.4
  • Number of Households: 84,783
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 62.86%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 80.18%

Census quick facts (from 2013):

  • Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2009-2013:  $137,500
  • Per capita money income in past 12 months (2013 dollars), 2009-2013:  $45,517
  • Persons below poverty level, percent, 2009-2013:  16.4%
  • Private nonfarm establishments, 2012:  5,371
  • Private nonfarm employment, 2012:  84,561
This entry was posted in FTTH, Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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