Mower County looking at using RODF, ARPA and Border to Border funds to improve broadband access

Gov Tech reports on Mower County’s plans for better broadband. It reads like alphabet soup with a mix of RDOF, ARPA and BTB funds, which is both of sign of the complexity and availability of various funding sources right now. If you’re community needs better access and they aren’t looking into options like these you should ask why. There’s a lot of money being invested right now but that won’t go on forever…

During the Mower County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, County Administrator Trish Harren laid out where the county currently stands in getting better broadband Internet coverage for the county.

As of last year, nearly 85% of the county’s residents had access to broadband, but that access is mostly condensed to high population densities, which includes Austin and small town areas.

More detail…

While 85% of the population is served, however, nearly 90% of the geographical makeup of Mower remains underserved.
That leaves large swaths of the county with either spotty coverage or no coverage at all.
However, a pair of funding opportunities are allowing the county some flexibility in terms of filling out that coverage.
Through the Federal Communications Commission’s based Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and Minnesota Border to Border (BTB) grants, Mower County is hoping to spread that access even further.
The RDOF uses an auction format where the winner of a reverse bidding process agrees to build out for a certain amount of money. In Mower County, LTD Communications was a top 10 bidder at $1.3 billion. They are also the largest provider in this area. Charter Communications had a bid of $1.2 billion
BTB runs through a grant process with a well of $95 billion to draw from in grant money. Grant applications for that program are due by Aug. 4.

And info on specific, proposed projects…

The northeast LTD project would come in at an estimated $2.45 million and would lay 82 miles of fiber over an area north of Grand Meadow and stretching east to parts surrounding Racine. It would also include 376 passings, or physical locations where residences and businesses would hardwire into the fiber network.
The southwest project would lay 138 miles of fiber with 209 passings at an estimated cost of $3.5 million over an area south of Austin and stretching east to the Rose Creek area.
Charter will also be part of this BTB project, serving an area to the south of Austin where LTD doesn’t serve. Its side of the overall project will include 99 passings coming in at around $677,000.
In order to form a partnership with projects coming out of the RDOF and the BTB programs, the county has agreed to set aside $750,000 in ARPA money of which $585,000 will be committed to the LTD projects and $99,000 will be committed to the Charter project.

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