This week, Cass County voted to invest in TDS application to Border to Border funds…
Administrator Stevenson provided seven American Rescue Plan Act Grant (ARPA) Phase III grant applications for Board consideration. He noted that there were $401,874 in requests with $264,984 of remaining funds. The Board asked applicants to provide a brief description of their project and answer questions before they took action. After presentations and a discussion by the Board, Commissioner Gaalswyk made a motion and Commissioner Peterson seconded the motion to fund each grant application as follows; My Neighbor to Love Coalition $7,500; the City of Remer and Remer Ambulance $50,000; Hackensack Game Changers Child Care Team $108,000; Pine River Backus Family Center $54,874; Arvig Telephone Company dba TDS Telecom $30,610; Balsam Moon Preserve $3,000; Northland Community Schools $15,000.
And here’ s more info from the application:
Arvig Telephone Company (Arvig), a subsidiary of TDS Telecommunications LLC (TDS Telecom), intends to apply for a Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant in the state’s 2023 grant round.
This project will serve a total of 7,262 locations – 6,997 households and 265 businesses. Approximately 7,011 locations are in Cass County and approximately 251 of these locations are in counties that border Cass County.
TDS Telecom proposes a last-mile project that will build facilities to unserved/underserved areas within Arvig Telephone Company, which encompasses five local exchange service areas (Backus, Hackensack, Pequot Lakes, Pine River, and Woman Lake) located primarily in Cass County.
The project will upgrade “last-mile” facilities by deploying a FTTH network using Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology. GPON can deliver symmetrical speeds of up to 8Gbps to all locations.
Renewed interest in public funding to subsidize construction of high-speed internet infrastructure in rural areas since the COVID-19 pandemic began has resulted in gobs of broadband money in Minnesota — at least compared to what used to be spent on the issue.
But the oodles of cash, mostly approved by the federal government over the last few years, is still not enough for Minnesota to meet its latest broadband goals, according to state officials. So Gov. Tim Walz’s administration has proposed spending another $276 million in the two-year budget.
The $276 million would be a huge amount of state money for internet infrastructure, if it’s approved by lawmakers. But the total is a proverbial drop in the bucket of Minnesota’s $17.6 billion budget surplus, underscoring just how much cash lawmakers have at their disposal.
There are also a slew of federal broadband programs that will help Minnesota cover the remaining $1.38 billion. The broadband task force estimated the state is in line for $968 million from the federal government, most of which is from the infrastructure bill that passed Congress in 2021.
What’s left for Minnesota, according to the task force report, is roughly $426 million, a price tag that factors in administrative costs and is based on a 50% match. (Minnesota almost had an additional $311 million grant from the feds to cover much of it, but the FCC stripped the award from embattled LTD Broadband last year over concerns the company couldn’t deliver.)
For years, the city of Independence has looked at ways to expand broadband access to more of its residents.
At the city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, city administrator Mark Kaltsas asked the council to support a plan to seek grant money to help expand broadband services to 434 additional homes in the area. The council unanimously approved the motion.
Kaltsas told the council that Midco Communications has the potential to expand services to Independence residents. Midco would like to apply in March for the state’s Border to Border grant funds though the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to expand broadband services by 2025. The proposed expansion would be fiber-to-the-home and capable of 5 gb symmetrical speeds.
In addition to that grant, the city of Independence would also apply for a grant through the Hennepin County Broadband grant program that is accepting applications through Jan. 31. Kaltsas said that the city would apply for a $250,000 grant with Hennepin County.
Here are some of the details…
Kaltas also provided some numbers behind the project: Total homes covered would 434 (considered currently unserved by MN DEED), with the total cost of $2.9 million. Midco would contribute $1.49 million with an addition $1.49 million from the Border to Border grant. The Hennepin County Broadband grant would be applied to reduce the DEED request.
“There really is no risk or cost to the city to do it, other than staff time,” Kaltsas said of applying for the grants. “It really is that western area which we’ve so badly tried to get served with broadband, I think this is a good opportunity.”
Today the MN Senate Committee Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development Committee met and heard from Bree Maki, Director of the Office of Broadband Development about Governor Walz’s broadband budget. The presentation was quick. Senators had questions, many of which seemed to steam from a recent visit from the Minnesota Association of Townships…
Q: I support broadband, just heard from township folks and their need. We don’t have it in Afton.
Steve Fenske works hard
Q: We know the expensive connections are the ones we need to do now.
It is getting difficult. We will learn a lot through our low density pilot during this round where can request up to $10 million
Q: Chair – what about outreach – how do we get people to tell us if they need access?
OBD will do outreach to present through Association of Townships, Letters to the Editors help too. We get 3 percent operating cost.
Q: I recently spoke to Women in Gov group, spoke about affordable broadband as a gender issue. Broadband digital equity is an issue – with communities of color using smart phones over computers. During COVID, folks on reservations and remote locations had a harder time using telehealth and other applications. Jobs during COVID that could be done remotely but those without access, folks couldn’t work online. Is there a plan to promote access in the tribes? And how do you support communities of color.
We are working with tribal entities. WE have tribal liaisons. Digital equity did slide, though reliable access does help. WE just hired a digital equity lead and try to work with other government agencies. We have an opportunity to focus moving forward.
Today the MN Broadband Task Force met to get general updates from Office of Broadband Development and Legislature. There is clearly a concern that there are not strong advocates at the legislature despite the $276 million set in Governor’s budget. Hearing about the federal funding, it is clear that it will not come quickly but there are opportunities for local communities to get involved. For example, Region 9 is looking at hosting a broadband conference for their community.
Next meetings are Feb 22 and March 27.
Here are details.
10:00 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. – Welcome, Task Force Introductions, and Approval of Minutes from December 19 and December 22 meetings
Governor recommendation is $138Million per year for the biennium
Bree and/or Teddy have presented to various Legislative committees
No broadband bills yet
Lots of new bill makers (Ecklund is gone; broadband in new committee) – so people have questions about mobile vs fiber and what speeds mean
Q: Will there be a day of the hill?
There was a one for the providers – but not others.
MN Broadband Coalition is not in a position to do a day on the hill; apparently we had a bill due but we’re trying to move forward. We need to convene a meeting. We’d like to at least have a lobby day.
10:10 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. How Can the Task Force Advocate for Broadband Funding at the Legislature? – Nathan Zacharias, Technology Policy Analyst, Association of Minnesota Counties
Tips for lobbying
Have a factsheet (map of availability with quick facts, available federal funds, speed goals, suggested funding level)
Get testimony and/or write letters
Work with committee chairs when you can – also vice chairs and minority leads
Q: Can we look for better than 50 percent match? Can we figure out how much of property tax is going into Border to Border funds already?
Some folks don’t have enough of a tax base to match grants.
10:40 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. – Office of Broadband Development Update by Bree Maki, Executive Director
Border conference 242 people in person and 193 online (registered)
We heard from past three Task Force chairs
We will be doing a survey to see if folks want another conference knowing that we’re missing another conference planner
10:50 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Line Extension Program Update by Bree Maki
People can apply online or via paper to report their unserved address
856 applicants so far (in 3 months) – 53 are businesses
Trying to connect with providers
We think we have funds for about 600 line extensions
Q: Any consideration of accelerating the process?
Not with all of the other things are happening. For example some addresses may be served from recent grant recipients.
Q: Le Sueur is the project partner for this project. We have a lot of fiber in the ground but it’s middle mile. How can we as a county engage with the process? DO we need to rely on vendors? Can we get the addresses?
People have to register themselves. Getting the word out there is most important. We can’t share personal address info.
Q: Is the map available on the website?
Q: Is there any thought to recommend to legislature to improve on the $5 million cap and 50 percent match?
The low density pilot project is still being tested. We reach capacity even with 50 percent match so we’re hard to push on that. There is an interest in going to a $10 million cap and it sounds like folks are talking about it. There are a lot of unknowns.
An Analysis of last year’s applications to see how much of state funding was property taxes.
Association of Townships is working on this.
11:00 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Border-to-Border Grant Program Update by Diane Wells, Deputy Director, Office of Broadband Development
Awarded $100M to 62 projects in December 2022 – leverage was $152M
Opened the latest round of grants ($42M in ARPA and $25M State), pre-applications were due Jan 19 – applications due March 2 – hope to announce awards by late Spring
25-30 projects are still open
BEAD funding – working with $5M planning grant. Five year plan due July 2023. Each state will receive at least $100M. Goals: 1: reach unserved, reach unserved, get Gig to anchor institutes. Some indication that we might get $650M total (so another extra $550M; we should know mid-June.)
First 20 percent of funding might not be released until mid-2024. There will be 4-years for implementation.
Q: ON the maps … just heard there were one million locations added to maps? Has Connected Nation been able to see anomalies? I know of locations that are misrepresented.
Availability of service is best known by person at that location. So we asked folks to report anomalies. The FCC used a fabric developed by Costquest – one option we have is to use them to try to sync with them or we have decided to work with local source to build a map. That will help us challenge. Some providers have reported to the FCC using different methods. Without the fabric in place first, we’re at a disadvantage. We didn’t do a bulk challenges of addresses but it looks like those who did were rejected.
Q: In Le Sueur we made a push to improved maps – but we’re having trouble even getting surveys done online because the broadband is poor.
The OBD staff is all remote and many rural – they are acutely aware of issues. We hope to get more engaged to document in five year plan.
11:10 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break
11:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Digital Equity Update – Hannah Buckland, Digital Equity Program Lead, Office of Broadband Development
Digital Equity Act – not BEAD – Due Nov 30, 2023 – then we send in a noncompete application.
There are 15 aspects we need to address in the capacity grant application.
There are opportunities for communities to get involved and for communities to get funding to get involved.
11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. Input from Governor’s Task Force Members
Q: What can we do to push the issue at the legislature?
We could be at the legislature. Talk to legislators.
11:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, Future Speakers for February 22 and March 27, 2023 Meetings, Wrap-up
If you wish to testify on SF 548, please email the Committee Administrator, Hunter Pederson, at firstname.lastname@example.org by 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Tuesday 01/31. Please include your name/the testifier’s name, title, and organization.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is awarding approximately $98,750 to deliver broadband infrastructure to 68 households and one business in northwest Dakota County, including portions of Apple Valley and Lakeville – all which lack access to qualifying broadband service today, according to a news release from Rep. John Huot’s office.
More info on the project…
As a result of this broadband grant, Spectrum Mid-America, managed by Charter Communications Inc., will improve broadband service levels, exceeding 2026 state speed goals. The high bandwidth broadband access will assist residents with remote learning and remote working, accommodate members of a household or small business simultaneously using bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video conferencing, telemedicine, video streaming, gaming, virtual or augmented reality sessions, and numerous other applications, the release said. The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program was created in 2014. The legislative focus of this grant program is to provide financial resources that help make the business case for new and existing providers to invest in building broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state. The Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has been funded with state general fund revenues and a combination of both state general fund revenues and the federal American Rescue Plan Act, according to the release.
The governor’s budget recommendation presented to the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee Thursday calls for $138 million in each of the next two years to fund grants assisting with middle-mile and last-mile broadband infrastructure. Money could be used for design, permits, installation and testing.
Typical grants require a 50% match with a cap of $5 million. However, the broadband office had run a pilot program for very low-density areas with a $10 million cap. The grant could provide 75% of the money.
The office tries to be agnostic as far as the technology, whether fiber, satellite or mobile, said Director Bree Maki, but wired connections have often been more reliable. There is a push, especially when working with federal money, to ensure projects can be built upon, allowing greater speed or reliability in the future.
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Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan are investing in Minnesota’s economic future by recruiting and retaining workers, empowering employers to grow their businesses, and making sure Minnesota is creating the jobs of the future right here at home. The One Minnesota Budget invests in everything from agriculture to workforce training to clean energy jobs to make sure Minnesota continues to be competitive in a global economy. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s plan will ensure that
Minnesota is a destination to live, work, and raise a family.
Here are the details on the broadband budget…
Increasing Access to Broadband
The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program expands broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved in pursuit of the state’s goal that all homes and businesses have access to broadband by 2026. Since its inception in 2014, the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has provided nearly $230 million to connect 90,000 Minnesota homes and businesses to high-speed internet. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan recommend $276 million in new funding to expand the reach of this vital program.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is awarding approximately $98,750 to deliver broadband infrastructure to 68 households and 1 business in northwest Dakota County, including portions of Apple Valley and Lakeville – all which lack access to qualifying broadband service today.
“Minnesotans deserve fast, reliable internet access they need for work, school, and home,” said Rep. Huot (DFL-Rosemount). “Broadband is a necessity in our modern world, and I’m grateful for our state partnership with Apple Valley to help residents advance and thrive in the 21st century.”
As a result of this broadband grant, Spectrum Mid-America, managed by Charter Communications Inc., will improve broadband service levels, exceeding 2026 state speed goals. The high bandwidth broadband access will assist residents with remote learning and remote working, accommodate members of a household or small business simultaneously using bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video conferencing, telemedicine, video streaming, gaming, virtual or augmented reality sessions, and numerous other applications.
The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program was created in 2014. The legislative focus of this grant program is to provide financial resources that help make the business case for new and existing providers to invest in building broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state. The Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has been funded with state general fund revenues and a combination of both state general fund revenues and the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Thursday unveiled his proposed two-year, $4.1 billion economic budget.
The budget includes a change making budget for broadband…
It also includes $276 million for border-to-border broadband internet and $10 million for communities struck by potential job losses as power plants close to “diversify their economies” and “find new opportunities for quality jobs and economic growth.”
They have recommended annual funding for the Border to Border grants through 2026 to meet the speed goals of 100 Mbps down and 20 up. According to the chart (show below) the cost to the State would be $273,784,250 per biennial (for two years, which is the legislative cycle) if the grant match continues to be 50 percent. That number increases to $569,773,625 with a 75 percent match.
Arvig has been awarded a $1.14 million grant from Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband program to invest in a fiber infrastructure project that will expand high-speed internet access in rural Otter Tail County, according to a press release.
Arvig will invest the grant in a mainline and last-mile fiber-to-the-premise project to bring internet service to 171 unserved and 100 underserved households, farms and businesses in southeast Otter Tail County. The areas served will include the rural Battle Lake, Henning, Parkers Prairie and Urbank areas.
The total cost of the project is estimated at more than $2.8 million and will be funded with the Border-to-Border grant, $998,117 from Otter Tail County and a $712,940 capital investment from Arvig. …
Construction on the network will begin as soon as this year and is slated for completion before June 2025. Once complete, residents will have access to internet speeds from 100 Mbps (20 Mbps upload) up to 10 Gbps (1 Gbps upload), meeting and exceeding Minnesota’s 2026 state speed goal.