Fairmount County to invest $1.5M in ARPA funds in broadband – looking for proposals

The Fairmont Sentinel reports

The Martin County Board of Commissioners has authorized a historic $1.5 million of funding for rural broadband development assistance. The partnership program would help cover up to half the cost of expanding fiber internet to people’s homes in areas currently underserved by existing internet infrastructure and is expected to generate at least $3 million worth of infrastructure improvements.

While larger cities in Martin County such as Fairmont, Sherburn and Truman already have easy access to broadband, a diminishing economy of scale means speeds quickly decrease for people living outside of these areas. In rural areas the increased distance between homes means fewer customers per mile of fiber cable installation and higher costs installation for internet service providers. Subsidizing rural broadband development can help reduce inequalities in access.

They are using ARPA funds…

The program is financed by federal funds disbursed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in 2021 and would help pay for the last mile of fiber installation to the premises capable of reaching download and upload speeds of at least 500 megabytes per second. In order to qualify a project must serve an area which is classified as underserved or unserved by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Office of Broadband. These areas have download speeds that don’t exceed 25 megabits per second and upload speeds that don’t exceed three megabits per second.

They are looking for proposals to get the work done…

Program funds will be dispersed in the form of a competitive grant application wherein projects are scored on a variety of criteria. The application provided by the county emphasizes providing the largest degree of improvement to the largest number of people as well as the project’s readiness and sustainability. Community participation, economic impact, broadband adoption assistance and the percent of public funds used in the project are scoring criteria on the application but are weighted to a less extent.

Applications for the program opened on Feb. 21 and applications must be submitted ahead of March 31 in order to be included in the initial review. After the initial review has been concluded the county will continue to disburse funds until all $1.5 million has been depleted. Because the county has yet to review project proposals estimates regarding the number of households the program will serve and the bandwidth improvements it would provide are currently unavailable.

This entry was posted in Community Networks, Funding, MN and tagged , by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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