Mille Lacs Reservation Broadband Profile: partnership with Mille Lacs County for MN grant might help

Earlier this year, the Office of Broadband Development released data and maps on broadband coverage of tribal areas. The numbers are high level or maybe more reflective than exact but it’s a great start on getting a handle on what’s happening in tribal areas. I thought I’d do a profile of each area, much like I have done for Minnesota Counties. Here is Mille Lacs Reservation

Info on Access/Households:

  • Number of households (2010 estimate): 1835
  • Percent Wireline Broadband 2022 speed goal (25/3): 61.12
  • Percent Wireline Broadband 2026 speed goal (100/20): 61.07

Mille Lac was a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) in 2012. Back then, there had been past attempts to boost broadband use – such as starting an online school but connectivity was an issue.

In 2015, Mille Lacs County developed a broadband feasibility study that included a brief statement on connectivity on the reservation…

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have constructed fiber connecting their casino, their main headquarters, and some of their other businesses. They buy bandwidth from the local cable company and are satisfied with the bandwidth they can get. They operate businesses outside of that fiber network for which they cannot get good bandwidth.

And it included opportunities for broadband partnership between the Band and the County…

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe could be a partner in several ways:

They have a desire to see all of their members get broadband, many of whom live in places without broadband. It’s possible that the Tribe might consider ideas like contributing equity or paying connection fees on behalf of their members.

The Tribe might even be a possible source of some of the upfront seed funding to get going. This project brings a lot of benefits to tribal members.  The Tribe has access to some types of financing that the cooperative could not get. It might be possible for the Tribe to help get a loan for the cooperative that otherwise you might not qualify for. For example, some of the loan guarantees discussed in this paper would be easier to do with help from the Tribe rather than directly as a cooperative.

They own some fiber today and it might be possible to use some of that fiber for part of the needed fiber route. There are many ways to structure this sort of sharing that would be in the benefit of both parties.

Mille Lacs applied unsuccessfully for the last available broadband grants; it seems likely that they would try again now that funding is secured again. That will help Mille Lacs Reservation get closer to ubiquitous coverage.

Learn more about Mille Lacs reservation demographics from Center for Indian Country Development.

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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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