Mille Lacs unhappy about not getting broadband grant

The Pine and Lakes Echo Journal reports on Mille Lacs not getting a broadband grant…

The denial of a state grant to partially fund a countywide wireless network in Mille Lacs County has officials frustrated, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development did not select the county’s application for broadband funding.

This rejection comes after a year’s worth of studies and public outreach, and county officials said they believed their project received less consideration than some that would impact 100 or fewer residents. The Mille Lacs County project would serve approximately 26,000 residents.

A consulting firm working with the county on the project intends to request information from the state concerning grant selection criteria.

The article captures the frustration that all of the communities that don’t get funding must feel – because applying for broadband funding is an undertaking as the article points out. Many communities will do a feasibility study, public outreach, partnership development and even some engineering planning before applying for funding. Many are good projects but there just isn’t enough funding to meet the need. The difficult thing about the effort is that without ongoing grants, if your community isn’t selected, you don’t know if you’ll get a chance to try again and even if you do, you’ll probably need to update the research and application.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has recommended ongoing funding for grants – that would ease some of the frustration I’m sure.

4 thoughts on “Mille Lacs unhappy about not getting broadband grant

  1. The problem with a wireless project is everyone knows it is at best a temporary fix. Using tax payer dollars for something which is nearly obsolete out of the box isn’t a good use of those funds. Grants should be for physical infrastructure which will last another 50 years.

  2. Having sufficient state support would help communities plan for the future. My fear right now is that too many people are focusing on the 25/3 speed goals not the 2026 goals of 100/20!

  3. I agree with Bill’s comments regarding wireless.

    Additionally, a few items reported in the local media seem to indicate a lack of understanding somewhere about this grant program and its requirements:

    1) Quoted from Mille Lacs Messenger: “While actual costs were never figured or offered…”

    Project cost information is a clear requirement in the grant application. Additionally, the grant application requires information about local match, a basic project budget, and partner funding commitments. If there truly was no cost information in the Mille Lacs grant application then it had to be rejected.

    2) Quoted in the Mille Lacs Messenger: “A potential DEED award could have covered a significant amount of that, perhaps half or more.”

    “or more” is completely incorrect. The Border to Border Broadband grant can not fund more than half of the project cost per Minnesota Statutes 116J.395 Subd. 7.

    3) Pine And Lakes Echo Journal: “A consulting firm working with the county on the project intends to request information from the state concerning grant selection criteria.”

    This information is defined in the grant application form provided by DEED and available online at This information is in the section subtitled “2017 Selection Criteria & Weights”.

  4. I think the misunderstanding starts with the fact that the publication seems to feel the proposal was “rejected” rather than “not selected.” That seems to assume that there is sufficient funding to cover the areas in need and that’s not the case.

    You bring up some good points too – the 50 percent match becomes more and more difficult as providers try to reach the hardest to reach areas (geographically and financially).

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