Fillmore County gets pitches from several broadband providers to invest ARPA funds

Fillmore County Journal reports

Three broadband providers outlined their proposals at the Fillmore County board’s November 9 meeting.

The county has received $4.2 million in American Recovery Act funding. Broadband providers are looking for a portion of this funding to support broadband projects within the county. Much of Fillmore County is still underserved.

Corey Hauer, LTD Broadband, said they have been a provider in the county for nine years. Fixed wireless is limited by hills and trees. He said we have been successful getting federal funding for fiber optic cable. Recovery Act funding could allow us to add additional unserved and underserved areas in one or two years. He estimated it takes $5,000 per household to bring fiber to areas with a low density of households. County dollars could allow them to build quicker in rural areas.

Jill Huffman, CEO of Harmony Telephone/MiBroadband, said they are a cooperative partnership dedicated to the expansion of broadband. There is a significant need in Fillmore County for residents and businesses. Build-outs in rural areas are expensive with return on investment being very long term. Step one is to build it, and then to support it and make it run smoothly. Northern and western portions of the county have very limited household density. She detailed two project areas that could be expanded with the support of state and county dollars. Huffman made it clear she welcomes ideas and is willing to consider all funding options to expand project areas. They are looking at all future funding options at federal, state, and local levels. She suggested projects could be completed in two construction seasons. Huffman expects it will cost more than $5,000 per household in low density areas. She concluded stressing that the installation of fiber will greatly impact the future economic growth in the county.

Zachary Raskovich, Mediacom Communications, has been with Mediacom for 15 years. The Mediacom system makes service available to 6,200 homes and businesses. Mediacom recently built out broadband in the city of Fountain, sharing project costs about 50-50 with a Minnesota DEED Grant. Mediacom is now constructing 4.3 miles of fiber to bring service to 246 homes and businesses in Wykoff. The total investment is 100% paid for by Mediacom and is expected to launch in March 2022. Mediacom is prepared to invest in the city of Ostrander to serve 155 homes and businesses, roughly 3.5 miles of construction. Raskovich requested a county grant in the amount of $50,000 (using American Recovery Act funds) for this project or roughly 16 percent of the total project cost.

AcenTek is expected to present their proposal at the next board meeting on November 23.

City of Prinsburg Takes Next Step for Broadband Project – $330,000 in ARPA funding (Kandiyohi County)

The news from Prinsburg…

On Tuesday, November 2nd, the Prinsburg City Council held a community broadband meeting at the Prinsburg Community Center to complete the next step towards a fiber-to-the home broadband project in partnership with Arvig. Over 40 people were in attendance, including community members and business owners, City representatives, Arvig Enterprises, Inc., and Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Broadband Committee members.

Access to high-speed broadband internet is an important issue for attracting and retaining community members and businesses alike. As many have experienced firsthand over the past 18 months, broadband has become a critical infrastructure for people to work from home, attend online classes, and participate in telemedicine appointments; not to mention staying connected with loved ones.

“I was considering moving out of town,” Alex Calvin told the City Council on Tuesday. “This project will help attract more young adults to Prinsburg.”

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved an allocation of $330,000 from their American Rescue Plan Act funds on September 21st. Additional funding for this $1 million project will come from Arvig ($450,000) and the City of Prinsburg. Thanks to the overwhelming support for this project at Tuesday’s community meeting, the Prinsburg City Council adopted a Resolution Approving Property Tax Abatements. This resolution allows the City to issue general obligation taxable tax abatement bonds not to exceed $275,000, with a tax abatement term of up to ten years.

As part of the agreement between Arvig and the City of Prinsburg, construction will begin no later than August 1, 2022, with substantial completion by December 31, 2022.

OPPORTUNITY: Sherburne County looking for partners to build better broadband with ARPA grants

WJON reports

Sherburne County is using some America Rescue Plan Act dollars to invest in broadband service for their residents and businesses.

The county is taking applications from service providers to share in a $1.5-million grant to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

Eligible projects must be substantially completed on or before December 31st in 2024.

The effort is to bring reliable, affordable high-speed internet to more Sherburne County households and businesses.

The application can be found on Sherburne County’s website and all applications are due on December 31st this year.

Here’s a little more info on the opportunity from the grant guidelines…

The purpose of the Sherburne County Broadband Access Grant Program is to encourage and facilitate necessary investment in broadband projects designed to provide high- speed, reliable, and affordable broadband service to unserved or underserved households and businesses in Sherburne County. The County may award up to $1,500,000 in grants to service providers for eligible projects that will provide service designed to reliably meet or exceed a symmetrical 100 Mbps download and upload speeds or, where symmetrical 100 Mbps speeds are not practicable, 100 Mbps download and at least 20 Mbps upload speeds, along with other requirements set forth in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”).

The Broadband Access Grant Program will be administered through the County Administrator’s office.

MN Communities get extra time to get in ARP proposals for projects like broadband

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

Minnesota on Monday gave local governments a little more time to claim federal COVID-19 relief money to which they’re already entitled.

Eligible cities and townships now have through Oct. 11 to apply for American Rescue Plan aid to help their communities respond to the pandemic, Minnesota Management and Budget announced. The deadline had been Monday.

“These ARP funds are a huge opportunity for local governments to address inequities and negative economic impacts in their communities and improve access to water and broadband infrastructure,” MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said in a statement.

Kandiyohi County commits $330,000 ARP funding to broadband in Prinsburg

The West Central Tribune reports

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners has approved earmarking $330,000 of American Rescue Plan dollars toward a fiber-optic broadband project in Prinsburg. All premises within the city limits will have access to high-speed broadband after the project is constructed.

More details…

Prinsburg is considered underserved by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, with available wireline broadband internet speeds of at least 25 megabits download and 3 megabits upload. However, that is below the state standard of 100 megabits download and 20 megabits upload speeds to be considered served.

“It is a digital world today,” and cities such as Prinsburg need the internet speed to meet it, said Connie Schmoll, broadband consultant for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

To try and bridge that gap and offer the higher speeds to residents, Prinsburg is partnering with Arvig Enterprises to construct a $1 million fiber-optic broadband system for the city. When complete, every premises within the city limits would have access to the state standard broadband speeds.

Arvig has committed to funding $450,000 toward the project, as well as providing all costs above $1 million. The city of Prinsburg will be using $45,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act economic stimulus funds for the project and will also be providing another $175,000 plus city legal and accounting fees.

“It falls in line with other projects we are looking at,” Schmoll said of the cost.

Kandiyohi County will be funding the remaining $330,000 for the project through its own American Rescue Plan Act allocation. The County Board approved allocating the funds at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Our board is very committed to broadband,” said Commissioner Corky Berg. “We do want to see the whole county eventually get it.”

The County Board has seriously been  considering earmarking the vast majority of its $8 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation to broadband projects across the county. It has already approved funding for a few projects, including $1.3 million to a project that will expand high-speed broadband to Dovre, Mamre, St. Johns and Arctander townships.

Wabasha County to invest $1 million American Rescue Plan funds on broadband

Post Bulletin reports

Wabasha County Administrator Michael Plante said the county board voted to commit $1 million of its $4.2 million American Rescue Plan money to expanding rural broadband access. While counties across the country still have questions on the federal guidelines for spending those funds – Plante said the county will hire a consultant to ensure it follows those guidelines to the letter once their hammered out – he envisions a grant program where internet providers can apply through a request for proposals, letting the county know what projects they prioritize in rural areas for their clients.

“Land-wise, a significant portion of the county is either unserved or underserved,” Plante said. “Primarily, we’re good in the cities. Population-wise, a substantial portion does have those internet capabilities. But businesses and families in the more rural areas need access to that.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, underserved areas are places with wireline broadband of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, but less than 100/20 Mbps. Unserved areas are places with no wireline broadband of at least 25/3 Mbps.

Not everyone pushed for broadband…

Not everyone was supportive of the plan to spent $1 million on rural broadband. Wabasha County Commissioner Brian Goihl said that between the lack of guidance from the federal government, the fact that the county has until Dec. 31, 2023, to put plans in place and another three years for project completion, and other pressing spending needs in the county, he’d prefer to spend the $1 million on other projects.

Kandiyohi County to focus federal funding (ARP) on broadband

West Central Tribune reports

he main focus of the EDC committee is the Federated Telephone fiber broadband project for Dovre, Mamre, St. Johns and Arctander townships. So far, about 681 properties could receive high-speed broadband through fiber if the project is completed.

“This is good news for the people in this area,” Schmoll said.

The project is estimated to cost around $9.7 million and funding is coming from a variety of sources. Federated is funding 25% of the project, and each individual property being hooked up to the new service will have to pay around $1,246, based on current cost projections.

The county has already approved two different funding requests for the project. The first was a $25,000 grant, available to any township in the county expanding broadband access. The second pot of money was $1.3 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan allocation.

More details…

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners has already decided to focus most of the county’s share of the federal funding to broadband, bringing a big lift to the work being done by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission broadband committee.

“They are giving us the opportunities to get the funds we need to make these projects possible,” said Connie Schmoll, broadband planner, at Thursday’s meeting of the EDC Joint Powers Board.

Large swaths of Kandiyohi County, and the state as a whole, are considered underserved or unserved, meaning properties don’t have access to 100 megabits per second download and 20 mbps upload internet speeds. During the pandemic, it became obvious for many that working and learning from home just wasn’t possible without high-speed, reliable internet.

Schmoll said she heard stories of parents going into the office, when they should not have done so, because they needed to save whatever internet speed they had at home for the children’s distance learning.

Here’s info on their main focus…

The main focus of the EDC committee is the Federated Telephone fiber broadband project for Dovre, Mamre, St. Johns and Arctander townships. So far, about 681 properties could receive high-speed broadband through fiber if the project is completed.

“This is good news for the people in this area,” Schmoll said.

The project is estimated to cost around $9.7 million and funding is coming from a variety of sources. Federated is funding 25% of the project, and each individual property being hooked up to the new service will have to pay around $1,246, based on current cost projections.

The county has already approved two different funding requests for the project. The first was a $25,000 grant, available to any township in the county expanding broadband access. The second pot of money was $1.3 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan allocation.

And a few smaller projects…

In addition to the Federated projects, the committee is looking at other projects across the county. At the July 20 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board, the commissioners approved sending $35,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to a Charter project in the 141st Avenue Northeast area in New London Township. A small project, it would bring services to 37 unserved homes in the area.

A $1 million project, developed by Arvig, could hook up 510 premises in Prinsburg to high-speed internet. Potential funding sources for that project include American Rescue Plan money from both the county and city of Prinsburg, along with $450,000 from Arvig and another $175,000 from a mix of the school, city and residents.