Blandin on Broabdand eNews Feb 2017: Grant awards and broadband policy updates

A recap of news from December…heat-map

Broadband Day on the Hill – March 15, 2017
Members of Minnesota Broadband Coalition are organizing Broadband Day on the Hill on March 15 to bring legislators the rural perspectives on the critical role that broadband plays in Minnesota rural communities’ economic vitality and quality of life. Please register to join the effort. Can’t attend? Tell policymakers you care about broadband through social media.

Border to Border Grant Awards Announced
Lt. Governor Tina Smith and DEED announced the recipients of the Border to Border Broadband Grants. Awards included $34 Million for 42 Broadband Projects across Greater Minnesota and will expand high-speed internet access to 16,627 households, 2,240 businesses, and 71 community institutions in Greater Minnesota. Recipients include:

  • Mediacom, Fayal Township – $263,345
  • Mediacom, Harris Township – $224,369
  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative FTTP Project – $1.76 million
  • Paul Bunyan Communications, Hubbard, Becker and Itasca Counties
  • CenturyLink, Thief River Middle Mile – $1.32 million
  • Garden Valley Telephone Co., Rural Thief River Falls East
  • Halstad Telephone Co., Kertsonville Area – $296,665
  • Sjoberg’s Inc., Roseau and Lake of the Woods Counties – $354,740
  • Wikstrom Telephone Co. (with Beamco Inc.), Rural Alvarado – $43,481
  • Wikstrom Telephone Co., Wiktel NW MN – $950,823
  • Consolidated Telecommunications Co., Kandiyohi County – $4.94 million
  • Frontier, Kandiyohi Initiative – $1.02 million
  • Gardonville Cooperative Telephone, Douglas County Lake Louise – $68,240
  • Otter Tail Telcom, Battle Lake – $238,170
  • Otter Tail Telcom, Fergus Falls Area – $279,271
  • Runestone Telephone, Holmes City 2 – $700,674
  • West Central Telephone Association, Wadena Rural North – $718,850
  • Albany Mutual Telephone Association, Big Watab Lake – $726,185
  • Benton Cooperative Telephone Co., Bock – $510,000
  • Benton Cooperative Telephone Co., Buckman – $276,230
  • Benton Cooperative Telephone Co., Ramey – $225,100
  • Mediacom, Medina – $170,868
  • Palmer Wireless, Big Lake Industrial Park – $90,988
  • Palmer Wireless, Del Tone Road and St. Cloud Airport – $179,400
  • Sunrise Township (CenturyLink), Fiber to the Home – $1.07 million
  • TDS Telecom, Cass and Crow Wing Counties – $3 million
  • Arvig-Redwood County Telephone, Middle Mile Fiber Extension – $27,998
  • Granada Telephone Co. (dba BEVCOMM), South Rural Granada – $157,920
  • Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co., Nobles County Broadband – $2.94 million
  • Martin County (with Frontier), Rural Broadband Initiative – $1.68 million
  • Midco, Canby to Marshall Middle Mile and Last Mile in Porter-Taunton-Minneota-Ghent – $623,000
  • New Ulm Telecom Inc., Hanska – $200,397
  • Renville County, Hiawatha Broadband Communications & RS Fiber – $807,966
  • Woodstock Telephone, Westbrook – $412,391
  • Acentek, Rural Lanesboro Fiber Build – $1.78 million
  • Blue Earth Valley Telephone Co. (dba BEVCOMM), Rural Winnebago – $152,828
  • Cannon Valley Telecom Inc. (dba BEVCOMM), Rural Freeborn – $150,700
  • Eckles Telephone Co. (dba BEVCOMM), Rural Heidelberg – $188,000
  • KMTelecom, Rural Mantorville – $764,663
  • New Ulm Telecom Inc., Goodhue-Bellechester – $332,328
  • New Ulm Telecom Inc., Mazeppa – $317,761
  • Winona County, Pickwick Area – $416,640

State Grants to Help Greater MN Students
Twelve school districts across Minnesota received grant funding to expand wireless internet access. School districts include: Deer River School District, Fertile-Beltrami School District, Lake of the Woods School District, Lake Superior School District, McGregor School District, Pine City School District, Princeton School District, Rothsay School District, Shakopee School District, St. Cloud School District, Thief River Falls School District and Tracy School District.

Broadband Investment in Minnesota
The Legislative Session is going strong. Bills have been introduced and people are reacting. Here’s a recap of what is happening locally:


Notes from legislative meetings:

  • MN House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Broadband Industry Intro: VoIP, 5G, growth and frustration
  • Industry speaks to MN Senate Committee on Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy
  • Office of Broadband Development update to House Committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance
  • Rep Johnson and Rep Baker speak to the Minnesota Broadband Task Force

Media on Legislation:

Federal Legislations/Policy Items

5G Wireless as Rural Solution
5G is a new technology standard in the making. The standard has not yet been finalized but it will offer very fast speeds. Because it requires a lot of infrastructure and has distance limitations, it will not be a good solution for rural areas any time soon.

Broadband access to Rural areas: What does that mean?
The MN State Demographic Office has redefined areas based on four options urban, large town, small town, and rural. See which areas have broadband based on their definitions and hypothesize which areas will in the future.

Broadband for Civic Engagement
Facebook Live is an easy tool to help broadcast public meetings – even if you are just an observer of the meeting. You can broadcast live and save as an archive for folks to view later.

Local Broadband News

A voice from the frontlines of Aitkin County MN says, “We need better broadband.”

Brainerd Dispatch article highlights businesses that credit the local workforce and the network for their decision to build satellite offices in the Brainerd area.

Brown and Watonwan Counties
New Ulm Telecom receives a $850,486 Border to Border grant to build fiber connections to homes and businesses in the rural areas of Hanska and Mazeppa and in and around Bellechester.

Carlton County
A recent Carlton County broadband feasibility study estimates $46-70 million to get better broadband to the county.

The Pine Journal outlines broadband served, underserved and unserved areas and tells the story of a new resident in Carlton County that is left without access.

Crow Wing and Cass Counties
TDS Telecom announce a $3 million Border to Border grant to expand and improve rural broadband services in parts of Crow Wing and Cass Counties.

Douglas County
Runestone Telecom Association receives a Border to Border grant of $700,674 to bring high-speed Internet service to 267 households and 32 businesses in the Holmes City area.

Hibbing is an IRBC community, working with the IRRRB and Blandin Foundation to expand broadband use. They are holding a community meeting on Feb 7.

Itasca County
Paul Bunyan Communications is bringing GigaZone access to Deer River, Squaw Lake, Ball Club, Dora Lake, Inger, Wirt, Max, and Spring Lake.

Itasca and Hubbard Counties Paul Bunyan Communications receives a $1.74 million Border to Border Broadband Grant for portions of Itasca County, Hubbard County.

Kandiyohi County
Broadband service will be expanded in Kandiyohi County thanks to nearly $6 million in Border to Border grant funding to Consolidated Telecommunications Co. (CTC) and Frontier.

Kelliher and Northome
Paul Bunyan Communications is bringing GigaZone access to Kelliher and Northome

AcenTek receives nearly $1.8 million in Border to Border grant funding for Lanesboro.

Le Sueur County
Eckles Telephone Co. receives $188,000 in Border to Border grants to serve rural Heidelberg.

KMTelecom receives a Border to Border grant of $764,663 to expand high-speed internet access in rural Mantorville.

Monticello, Southwest Minnesota and Windom
A new map tracks municipal FTTH networks, including the networks from Monticello Fibernet, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Systems (SMBS) and WindomNet.

Nobles County
Nobles County celebrates broadband work done with Blandin Foundation support

Otter Tail County
Otter Tail Telcom receives a $517,441 Border to Border grant to improve broadband access in the Fergus Falls and Battle Lake areas.

Pipestone County
Pipestone County is looking at regional broadband options

Pope County
Pope County is working on broadband survey to measure broadband need and interest

Redwood County
Arvig receives a Border to Border grant to serve 15 unserved households and 20 unserved businesses near Morgan.

Renville County
Hiawatha Broadband Communications & RS Fiber receive $807,966 in Border to Border grant funding.

Sunrise Township
Sunrise Township receives a Border to Border grant to upgrade the part of the community served by CenturyLink.

Wadena and Otter Tail Counties
West Central Telephone Association receives $718,850  to expand broadband to 174 unserved homes and 13 unserved businesses in Bluffton and Blowers townships in Otter Tail County and portions of Rockwood, Leaf River, North Germany and Wing River townships in Wadena County.

Winona County
Working with HBC, Winona County receives $416,000 in Border to Border grant funding to continue broadband expansion into areas of Wilson, Homer, Richmond, Pleasant Hill and Wiscoy townships.

Upcoming Events

  • May 16-17 – Net Inclusion (St Paul)
  • June 21 – MACTA Annual Conference U of MN Continuing Education Center

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)


  • Broadband Innovation and Robust Network Feasibility Fund grant award amounts range from $1,000 to $25,000, and matching funds are required. Grant application deadlines for 2017 are January 6, April 7, June 23 and September 22.
  • Grants are available to help digitize cultural documents through Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). Deadline is April 3.
  • The FCC is looking for applications for the newly formed FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee
  • RUS Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee announce two application periods in 2017 for its Broadband Loan program: the first application window March 1-31, 2017 and the second application window from September 1-30, 2017.
  • Google announces grants to promote professional development for Computer Science teachers. Deadline March 19.

Stirring the Potbill right

Those readers that know me know that I can go on about broadband for a long time.  I can talk about broadband demand, technologies, economic impact, private-public partnerships and just about any other broadband topic.  So, I am facing a considerable challenge when I consider how to best use my allotted three minutes before a legislative committee this week.

My key points will be:

1)      The pain felt by unserved rural Minnesotans is real.  From lower property values to increased costs of high priced satellite and cellular services or too frequent trips into town to get online, the lack of broadband hurts students, small business owners, farmers and all who live in the countryside.  For a better understanding of how important broadband is to rural Minnesotans, I suggest that you read some of the posts on some of our broadband providers’ Facebook pages.  You will share the excitement of those just hooked up to real broadband services and feel the pain of those left behind with little or no broadband or unreliable broadband.

2)      Please know that rural elected officials are hungry for real and effective public private partnerships.  While every project is different, creating legal and smart pathways to public-private partnerships that minimize legal expense and maximize broadband investment would be of high value and low cost.  Every community or county should not have to create their own unique way to partner and finance projects, often by bending existing tools to fit broadband investment.  In addition, broadband providers willing to engage in real partnerships should be rewarded for their commitment to rural Minnesota.  A real partnership means that providers have some skin in the game.

3)      We cannot solve rural Minnesota’s broadband problems one township at a time.  We need countywide and multi-county projects that address large geographic areas and that do not leave pockets of people behind.  These larger projects will probably require multi-year funding commitments and, in some cases, more than 50% public funding.

4)      We need broadband infrastructure that will support rural Minnesotans for a generation.  We should not fund marginally upgraded networks that will require additional upgrades to meet the 2026 state goal of 100 Mb/20 Mb.  Remember, the future business case to upgrade these networks will be no better than the current business case that requires subsidy.  Dig once and do it right.

5)      Finally, going beyond “served and unserved”, communities need providers that are responsive to existing and prospective economic development opportunities and community needs; communities need real broadband partners.  Current and prospective businesses, health care providers and schools need providers ready to make the necessary investments and provide the services that allow these organizations to survive and thrive.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN 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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