Mille Lacs unhappy about not getting broadband grant

The Pine and Lakes Echo Journal reports on Mille Lacs not getting a broadband grant…

The denial of a state grant to partially fund a countywide wireless network in Mille Lacs County has officials frustrated, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development did not select the county’s application for broadband funding.

This rejection comes after a year’s worth of studies and public outreach, and county officials said they believed their project received less consideration than some that would impact 100 or fewer residents. The Mille Lacs County project would serve approximately 26,000 residents.

A consulting firm working with the county on the project intends to request information from the state concerning grant selection criteria.

The article captures the frustration that all of the communities that don’t get funding must feel – because applying for broadband funding is an undertaking as the article points out. Many communities will do a feasibility study, public outreach, partnership development and even some engineering planning before applying for funding. Many are good projects but there just isn’t enough funding to meet the need. The difficult thing about the effort is that without ongoing grants, if your community isn’t selected, you don’t know if you’ll get a chance to try again and even if you do, you’ll probably need to update the research and application.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has recommended ongoing funding for grants – that would ease some of the frustration I’m sure.

More details on Sherburne County’s MN broadband grant project

According to Star News

The $110,661 grant, in conjunction with a local match from Sherburne County, will allow high-speed internet to serve 32 more homes and businesses and the Haven Town Hall.

This project supports customers that border Sherburne County Road 3 between county roads 7 and 20. That is just south of St. Cloud Regional Airport and east of Highway 10. The project will connect to an existing Palmer Wireless network that is being built as a result of the 2016 Border to Border St. Cloud Airport project.

Most of the locations in this area are rural homes, farms and businesses with large open spaces

“Easy access to reliable, cost-effective internet service has become a facilitator of economic growth. This partnership will bring improved broadband services to several businesses, homes and farms within our community,” said Dan Weber, assistant county administrator.

The county partnered with Palmer Wireless in the form of a $135,253 interest-free loan to help fund the project. The county has been installing the necessary conduit needed for the fiber in conjunction with highway improvement projects.

“Sen. Johnson gains funding for broadband projects in northwestern Minnesota”

According to the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus

The Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced recipients of 2017 Border-to-Border Broadband grant program recently. The announcement includes two projects for providers serving Kittson, Pennington, and Roseau counties.

The projects will help serve residents, businesses, and community institutions across northwestern Minnesota, by providing critical access to high speed internet connectivity. Funding for the projects was secured in this year’s Jobs and Economic Development Bill, which Senator Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) supported during the 2017 legislative session.

Sjober’s Inc and Wiktel NW MN Broadband will receive a total of $1,514,873 for their broadband expansion projects in Senate District 1, allowing their combined efforts to serve 400 unserved households, 34 unserved businesses, and 3 community anchor institutions.

“Although the standard for internet is high speed, many folks in northwestern Minnesota lack all but the most rudimentary connection,” said Senator Johnson. “With the 2017 Border-to-Boarder Broadband grant program, families and individuals will have increased access to educational, health, and economic opportunities.”

 

2017 MN Broadband grant program challenge process results

It’s been fun to watch the different communities celebrate their Minnesota Broadband grant awards. News is still coming from the Office if Broadband Development about the 2017 grant process. Specifically, they released info on the challenges to the grant proposals.

Here’s a quick look at the challenges:

  • Number of Applications Filed: 70
  • Challenges Submitted: 49
  • Number of Projects Challenged: 34
  • Number of Projects Challenged: 34
  • Number of projects not funded because of credible challenges: 6

Here’s a look at those projects:

Mediacom – Eden Valley
Arvig provided information that in June 2017 it upgraded service in the Eden Valley Central Office to increase broadband speeds to at least 100/20 up to 2500 feet from the CO and at least 25/3 up to 6500 feet from the CO. Arvig will be submitting the updated coverage in the next data collection round for the online broadband maps.

Mediacom – Wykoff
Arvig provided information that in June 2017 it upgraded service in the Wykoff Central Office to increase broadband speeds to at least 100/20 up to 2500 feet from the CO and at least 25/3 up to 6500 feet from the CO. Arvig will be submitting the updated coverage in the next data collection round for the online broadband maps.

Palmer Wireless – Sherburne County 8
Frontier indicated it currently provides service of at least 25/3 to a large portion of the project area and provided a latitude/longitude list of those locations. That coverage is confirmed on the broadband maps.

Paul Bunyan North Central Fiber
SCI is in the process of building out the city of Warba with its own capital. A letter was sent to SCI on December 1, 2017 indicating that its challenge was found to be credible and requesting the company to submit documentation upon service being made available, the locations served, and the download and upload speeds provided. The portions of Paul Bunyan’s North Central Fiber project that included “East” and “West” Warba were removed from the project. The remainder of project was funded.

SCI Greenway
Paul Bunyan is in the process of building out a portion of the proposed SCI Greenway project with its own capital. A letter was sent to Paul Bunyan on December 1, 2017 indicating that its challenge was found to be credible and requesting the company to submit documentation upon service being made available, the locations served, and the download and upload speeds provided.

SCI Shamrock Township
Frontier indicated it currently provided service of at least 25/3 to portions of the SCI Shamrock Township project and would provision additional areas by July 2019. Frontier provided latitude/longitude files for these locations. After comparing where Frontier already served and had plans to serve by July 2019 with the locations included in the SCI Shamrock Township project, those areas challenged by Frontier were removed from the project and SCI was awarded a grant to build out the non-challenged areas. A letter was sent to Frontier on December 1, 2017 indicating that its challenge was found to be credible and requesting the company to submit documentation upon service being made available, the addresses served, and the download and upload speeds provided.

Update on Minnesota Broadband grants in Wadena

The Wadena Pioneer Journal reports…

Unserved households and businesses in Wadena, Otter Tail and Todd Counties will be on the receiving end of high-speed internet access in 2018.

Townships receiving broadband include Wadena (Wadena), Compton (Otter Tail) and a small portion of Stowe Prairie Township (Todd).

They provide more info on the project…

West Central Telephone of Menahga and Sebeka received its third state grant and will be bringing high-speed internet service to 189 homes and 13 businesses next year.

According to West Central Marketing Director Geri Salmela, the telephone cooperative will be matching the state’s grant of $874,581 with a contribution of their own of $947,463.

The total cost of the project has been set at $1,822,044.

“We call it Phase 3,” Salmela said. “Once that fiber network is built all those people in that area will be able to get gigabit service.”

Service has already been brought to much of Wadena County. The first grant ran fiber optics along the Highway 71 corridor, according to Salmela. The second grant expanded on that area and branched out.

In addition to the Phase III grant, West Central received a grant of $902,695 for a project in northern Todd County. The grant will provide broadband to 209 unserved households and six businesses within portions of Staples and Villard Townships. West Central’s local match will bring the total cost of the project to $1,805,390.

More on MN Broadband Grant in St Louis County

Business North reports…

CenturyLink, Inc. has been awarded $1.8 million in state Border-to-Border broadband grants to improve broadband service as part of the $3.6 million  project in the Fredenberg Township near Duluth, Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced.

CenturyLink will invest more $1.8 million in company funds to bring fiber to the home (FTTH) and higher internet speeds to more than 800 households and businesses in CenturyLink service areas in Fredenberg Township.

”I’ve been a proponent of expanding broadband investment in Northeast Minnesota as well as the state broadband grant program since I was first elected to the legislature,” Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) said in a prepared statement.  “I wholeheartedly support public-private investment from providers such as CenturyLink.”

CenturyLink participates in the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) program. Through the CAF program, CenturyLink will deploy broadband to more than 114,000 locations in FCC-designated high-cost census blocks in Minnesota over a six-year period.

Construction is expected to begin sometime next summer.

More on MN Broadband grant in Goodhue County

The Red Wing Republican Eagle reports on the Minnesota State Broadband Grant awarded in Goodhue County…

Two communities in Goodhue County will benefit from this funding: Wanamingo and Goodhue/White Rock. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates that these two projects will improve access for 619 unserved households, 164 unserved businesses and four unserved community institutions.

Gigabit speed internet service has been available in Red Wing since 2012, thanks to a public-private partnership between the city and HBC.

“We’re very grateful that our city was forward thinking to implement broadband,” said Red Wing Ignite Executive Director Neela Mollgaard. “It provides infrastructure to keep our community globally competitive as we progress.”

Red Wing Ignite representatives were invited speak at the 2017 Minnesota Broadband Conference co-hosted by the Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development last month to showcase the useful outcomes that broadband can have within a rural community.

Mollgaard explained to attendees how Red Wing’s broadband access has allowed their nonprofit to help foster innovation and help support students, entrepreneurs and businesses.

“Red Wing has a lot to be proud of,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO of the Blandin Foundation. “Local leaders are creating a broadband-enhanced future themselves when others wouldn’t do it for them. Their vision will propel the community forward.”

The Blandin Foundation estimates that the economic benefits of broadband in Red Wing will surpass the public’s initial investment within one to six years. Blandin officials also foresee an economic benefit for Goodhue County of more than $18.6 million over 15 years if broadband access and use improved.