Great news for portions of Koochiching and St. Louis Counties…
Paul Bunyan Communications has been awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to portions of Koochiching County and St. Louis County.
As a result, the cooperative will begin expansion construction in late 2020 and continue into 2021. This all fiber optic project will pass a minimum of 1,100 locations in portions of Koochiching and St. Louis County. The project is estimated to cost $5.68 million, with the State of Minnesota Border to Border grant contributing $2.35, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) grant contributing $802,700, and Paul Bunyan Communications investing $2.5 million. In support of the grant, Koochiching County will contribute $26,000 towards the portion of the project within the county and Morcom Township will contribute $10,000 towards the project within the township.
“This is huge for our region. Access to quality broadband service is vital to so many different facets of life including health care, education, business, and recreation. It is why I co-authored the bill to fund the Border to Border Grant Program in 2020 and introduced legislation to allocate another $30 million for the program in 2021. I applaud all those involved with supporting the effort to secure this grant so we can keep our rural communities thriving and vibrant.” said State 3A Representative Rob Ecklund.
“We are excited to continue our expansion efforts to provide access to broadband Internet speeds to those without it in our region. Our cooperative has a long history of expanding our network to underserved areas but it has become increasingly challenging to go it alone without grant support. The State of Minnesota Border to Border Grant Program, Koochiching County, Morcom Township, IRRRB, and the Koochiching Technology Initiative were instrumental in building community support for the grant application to make this project a reality. These areas will not only get Broadband access, they will go from slow satellite or dial up Internet to speeds of up to a Gigabit per second and become part of one of the largest rural Gigabit networks in the country!,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
Paul Bunyan Communications expects to develop the expansion plans later this year and will contact locations along the upcoming expansion routes either late this fall or next spring. The entire project will be completed by June 30, 2022. To see if your location is included in this expansion project go to https://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/
“This project will have an incredible impact on people’s lives. Employees will be able to work from home, students will have access to educational resources, and seniors will be able to stay in their homes longer with telemedicine.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager. “The leadership shown in supporting this project through local efforts of many at KTI and Morcom Township was impressive. It is that local support that is essential in getting our grant selected in a highly competitive process.” said Howard.
“Morcom’s township officials currently have difficulty conducting basic governmental functions like filing tax documents due to a lack of internet access, not to mention the difficulties students, businesses, and residents experience when they can’t get online. I’m excited to see this project move forward and am committed to meeting our broadband connectivity goals so all Minnesotans can access the fast, reliable internet service they deserve.” added State 6A Representative Julie Sandstede.
“I salute the hard work of our elected officials who championed the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program including Rep. Ecklund, Rep. Sandstede, Senator Bakk, Rep. Persell, Senator Tomassoni, and Rep. Layman. I also want to thank the Office of Broadband Development that oversees the program. This is going to make a world of difference in so many ways to a lot of people right here in northern Minnesota!” said Johnson.
Cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone service options like unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone Internet service.