A month after deciding to officially get into the broadband business, East Central Energy has learned it will get financial assistance to aid in those efforts.
That assistance comes in the form of three Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development grants totaling nearly $15 million. The grant funds are earmarked for the creation and/or expansion of broadband in northern Isanti County, central Kanabec County and southern Pine County.
The announcement from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development of the grant awards came on Thursday, Dec. 8, just about a month after the ECE Board of Directors voted to expand into broadband.
It’s a 30-70 spilt…
ECE applied for and was awarded a 30-70 grant, meaning 30% of the funding for the fiber-to-the-home project will be covered by grants while the other 70% will be handled by the ECE cooperative.
The first phase of the broadband project has to be completed in less than two years. The three grants awarded last week all need to be completed, constructed, and “members have to have the opportunity to have fiber internet to the home from us by July 1, 2025.”
Costs for the first phase will come from the $15 million in grants, plus an additional $30 million that will come from ECE.
“We still have a long ways to go to get the project completed,” Houglum said. “Our plan is a five-year-build, so we start May 1 of 2023, and our plan would be to have five construction seasons to get that completed.”
ECE has a great page digging into the details of the project. Here’s a high level highlight…
East Central Energy will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs, providing discounts to qualifying subscribers. The three grants awarded to ECE by MN DEED on December 8 include: 1) The “Isanti North” grant will connect 1,988 households, 142 businesses, 353 farms to high-speed internet in Isanti and Kanabec counties. This network was awarded $5 million and will have a total project cost of $16,850,584; 2) The “Kanabec Central” grant will connect 2,879 households, 207 businesses, 312 farms and four public schools to high-speed internet in Kanabec county. This network was awarded $4.4 million and will have a total project cost of $14.8 million; 3) The “Pine South” grant will connect 2,332 households, 129 businesses, 334 farms and four public schools to high-speed internet in Pine and Kanabec counties. This network was awarded $4.75 million and will have a total project cost of $15,995,002.