More info on Border to Border grant funded projects in Brown, Faribault and Martin counties and concerns with grant challenge process

Mankato Free Press reports…

Four area telecommunication companies have been awarded state grants to expand high-speed broadband in rural areas.

The awards, among 42 grants totaling $34 million for projects across Greater Minnesota, were announced Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.

New Ulm Telecom will get $200,397 toward a project that will serve 14 unserved households and 32 unserved businesses in Lake Hanska Township in Brown County and Riverdale Township in Watonwan County. New Ulm Telephone will improve service levels in an area populated with farms and home-based businesses. The total eligible project cost is $445,326, with a $244,929 local match.

Blue Earth Valley Telephone Co. got $152,828 to help serve 18 unserved households (including farms), eight unserved businesses, two underserved households and three underserved businesses in rural Winnebago in Faribault County. Blue Earth Valley Telephone will improve services that will help livestock and grain farmers in the region. The total eligible project cost is $382,070, with a $229,242 local match.

The Granada Telephone Co. got $157,920 to serve 26 unserved households and 14 unserved businesses in the rural Granada area in Martin County. Granada Telephone will provide advanced broadband services to farms and residences in the area. The total eligible project cost is $394,800, with a $236,880 local match.

Martin County also received $1.68 million to serve 1,784 unserved households, 51 unserved businesses and nine unserved community institutions in Martin County. Frontier Communications will partner with Martin County to provide services that will attract economic development and make businesses more competitive. The total eligible project cost is $3.5 million, with a $1.82 million local match.

They also mention some of the concerns that others have had with legislative changes made to grant process…

A new report is recommending another $110 million be budgeted for the effort during the 2017 legislative session. But while lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton have had well-publicized debates over the grant funding, the telecommunications industry has been winning quieter battles that may be undermining the program, Dan Dorman told The Free Press in a recent interview.

“It’s really been a tough uphill battle,” said Dorman, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, which lobbies for policies that promote outstate economic development.

One of Dorman’s biggest concerns is a change in the grant program approved by the Legislature in 2016 that allows existing cable companies and other internet providers to challenge grants being sought by a new competitor looking to enter a marketplace.

The provision seemed reasonable at first blush — that existing companies could object to state aid being provided to competitors if the existing provider promised to upgrade its service.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

2 thoughts on “More info on Border to Border grant funded projects in Brown, Faribault and Martin counties and concerns with grant challenge process

  1. There should be a challenge process. If private companies are willing to make an investment without taxpayer support they should have the opportunity. This helps focus the grants into areas where nobody is able serve without help from taxpayer support.

  2. There is not a simple answer to the challenge process. First off, private telephone companies have always received government subsidies of one form of the other because there has never been a market-based solution to extending electric or telephone to rural areas so the question is not whether rural providers receive subsidies, it is which providers receive subsidies . Second, some providers provide a minimal level of broadband services (something less than the current FCC definition of 25/3 with no easy pathway to the state goal of 100/20), but not at the capacity and price that will attract and retain manufacturers and tech-oriented businesses/people in rural communities. Third, and you can see this in many of the smaller funded projects, existing providers are using the fund to edge out to a relatively small number of households that still leaves many unserved and makes the financial model to serve the remaining unserved even more difficult.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s