In what he called “historic,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced $99.6 million in funding for internet providers to “expand broadband coverage to more Minnesotans,” the press release stated. The Dec. 8 announcement added that this is “the largest single investment in broadband infrastructure in state history.”
More info on local projects…
At the end of October, East Central Energy’s announced their decision to begin exploring broadband options. The Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution to “enter the broadband business,” according to a press release from ECE.
Ty Houglum, vice president/chief information officer of ECE, said the Oct. 27 board decision came after “nearly a year of hard work, including grant applications, a feasibility study, meetings with local entities, additional research and learning from other co-ops that offer broadband.” The release also stated, “the co-op plans to prioritize unserved and underserved locations” throughout their 14-county service area.
On the heels of ECE’s release, the Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative announced on Nov. 2 that they received nearly $3.8 million as a Rural Development investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The money will allow MLEC to “deploy a fiber-to-the-home network to connect 473 people, 15 farms and nine businesses to high-speed internet in Aitkin and Crow Wing Counties.”
MLEC will partner with Consolidated Telecommunications Company on the construction of the announced project, which is expected to begin in late 2023; the release also noted the cooperative will “make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.” Additionally, a map of the project is available for viewing at www.mlecmn.net/fiber.
Both ECE and MLEC will also be receiving grant money, per Gov. Walz’s announcement on Dec. 8. MLEC will receive a little over $1.2 million to aid in their $2.4 million project that will “extend the MLEC fiber network and bring gigabit broadband service to 250 residents in rural Aitkin County in portions of the Spencer, Nordland, Glen and Wealthwood townships,” according to a MLEC press release.
The funding ECE received does not include any projects extending into Mille Lacs County. But Benton Cooperative Telephone Company will receive $1,118,289.16 for service to the county, as will Savage Communications Inc., which received $476,108. Savage Communications Inc.’s DBA (doing-business-as) SCI Broadband. The Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners sent a letter in support of SCI Broadband’s grant application to DEED.
In Crow Wing County, Tri-Co Technologies, LLC dba Crosslake Communications will receive $343,552 of grant funding.