Update on Border to Border grants in Corcoran and Rogers (Hennepin County)

Press and News reports

Hennepin County has been working on providing its residents with high-speed internet access, or broadband. Some of the cities that are going to receive broadband include Corcoran and Rogers.

These cities were both approved for Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Infrastructure Grants. Rogers will receive $643,056 and Corcoran will receive $1.298 million from this grant.

Comcast will be working with the cities and Hennepin County to provide Corcoran and Rogers with broadband.

“Comcast is expanding service to more than 490 homes in rural areas of Corcoran. Comcast will invest approximately $1.2 million, to bring the entire suite of Xfinity and Comcast Business services to Corcoran. Construction is planned to start in spring 2023,” Senior Director of External Communications, at Comcast Jill Hornbacher said.

Comcast will also be providing services to more than 400 homes in rural areas of south Rogers. They will invest $2.5 million to bring high-speed internet access to rural areas of Rogers.

The first phase of construction in Rogers was completed in 2021 and the second phase will start in spring 2023. In total, Comcast is investing $18.8 million to expand broadband services to over 7,000 homes in Wayzata, Rogers, Dayton, Corcoran, Spring Hill, and Grain Valley.

They are also using ARPA funds…

According to Anderson, Hennepin has been working over the last year and a half with cities and internet providers so that every household can get connected to broadband. Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funding, Hennepin County has allocated $10 million to this initiative.

Goodhue County Board chooses not to move forward with broadband plan at this time

I’m so used to posting news about counties investing in broadband in their community, it’s unusual to see a county choose not to invest but it looks like that’s what Goodhue is choosing. As the Kenyon Leader reports

Concerned by the sizable price tag, the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners has pumped the brakes on a proposed expansion of broadband internet backed by Dennison Mayor Jeffrey Flaten.

The proposal from Twin Cities-based OurTech Co-Op, a recently launched Technology Services Cooperative, would provide broadband to 125 households and 80 businesses, farms or “community anchor institutions” which are currently considered to be underserved.

While the project would be OurTech’s first broadband project, the co-op is planning to partner with Quest Technology Services to complete the project’s construction. California-based Quest is among the largest and most experienced firms on the market, with four decades of experience.

It sounds like project included Dennison in Goodhue County, and Northfield and Wheeling townships in rural Rice County as well as surrounding rural area. It also sounds like the issue was the fact that Commissioners felt the towns were adequately served and the cost was too expensive to serve rural locations…

The project is pricey no matter how you cut it, with a cost of over $6.1 million. That’s a cost of roughly $30,000 per property covered. Almost all broadband projects recently funded by the board have had costs of $10,000 per property or less.

OurTech is seeking state grant dollars for about $4.6 million, but is asking both Rice and Goodhue counties to split the remainder. The city of Dennison hasn’t provided funding. The company says it has spent $18,500 on the project but didn’t commit to spending more.

They explain the cost, although I must admit I’m not sure I understand because I’m not sure if they are talking about strands of fiber of conduit…

The biggest reason for the exorbitant price tag is that the broadband would offer three lines to each household, setting the stage for a competitive market which OurTech Executive Director Jared Petersen would lower costs and increase product quality in the long run.

“Providers worry that if they have an open access model, it reduces their ability to command a higher price for their services,” Petersen told the commissioners at their Feb. 21 meeting. “By injecting an anti-trust model into the way we’re doing things, we’re returning power to the homeowner.”

They must have been looking to use ARPA funds…

At nearly $771,000, the proposed county share exceeds the less than $614,000 the county has in remaining funds for broadband expansion provided by the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. And it would cost more than any other project approved using that funding.

It sounds like a spirited discussion followed with some folks wanting better broadband despite the cost and others feeling like what they had was adequate. Red Wing is in Goodhue County and home to Red Wing Ignite, which is an economic development organization that promotes investment and use of fiber technology. So it seems ironic to have a discussion on the value of better broadband, especially at a time when many other counties are looking to invest.


Benton County Commissioner willing to invest $1.5 million in broadband project with Benton Communications

KSNI radio reports

Benton County residents will get high-speed fiber broadband internet after the Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with Benton Communications.

The county awarded the company $1.5 million to 483 rural addresses in unserved and underserved areas north of Highway 23. Packages will be offered in speeds ranging from 100Mbps upload/download up to one gigabyte upload/download.

The money comes from Benton Communications, the State of Minnesota Border to Border grants, and Benton County contributing $1.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Benton Communications expects to begin work on laying the 148 miles of fiber in the fall and complete the project by June 2025.

Residents interested in broadband service should contact Benton Communications General Manager Cheryl Scapanski at 320-393-1112.

However, I think that the announcement of service may be premature. The agenda from the last Benton County Commissioners meeting (Feb 21 2023) indicates that the county discussed the opportunity to invest and support Benton County’s Border to Border proposal but they need to apply before knowing that it will happen. But fingers crossed for Benton County!

Cass County to invest ARPA funds on TDS application to Border to Border funds

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.
Total Project Cost         23,335,204
TDS Matching Funds         18,404,201
Cass County ARPA Grant Funds                30,610
MN Broadband Grant Request           4,900,393


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.

Kandiyohi County is looking at $400,000 ARPA funding for broadband

West Central Tribune reports

The Kandiyohi County push to extend high-speed broadband across the county continues. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board , the Kandiyohi County Broadband Committee will be requesting additional American Rescue Plan Act dollars to help fund a two-part, three-township project.

The project would expand high-speed broadband through Harrision, Lake Elizabeth and East Lake Lillian townships. The ARPA request is for $399,725. The committee is also asking for a letter of support from the county board to go with the project’s state Border to Border grant application. The county hopes to be awarded 75% of the project total, or $1.49 million.

MN House bonding committee hears of billions in federal funds available for MN capital projects – including broadband

I’ve said before, I just can’t hear enough about the federal funding coming for broadband. It’s confusing and the numbers are huge. (Huge but not sufficient to get border to border broadband.) If you feel the same, this is another concise view of the funds coming it. This look was different for me because it wasn’t just broadband-focused. Interesting to compare to other capital projects. (You can keep track on the MN Management and Budget IIJA website.)

And here’s the recap from the MN House…

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The federal government has promised about $1 trillion to the states through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Minnesota is expected to receive more than $7.4 billion in formula funds over the next five years, but a majority require a state match.

State agencies have been coordinating with each other and local agencies to maximize the impact of the federal dollars, said Liz Connor, MMB’s strategic initiatives manager. She highlighted the state’s IIJA website, with information for local governments and others on technical assistance and resources, as well as a grant opportunity tracking form.

Minnesota has been awarded nearly $5.9 billion to date, but that doesn’t mean there is authority to spend it, Connor said, though MMB has a handle on what the state will be pursuing. Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget — scheduled for release Jan. 24 — is expected to include proposals for matching funds.

Questions the committee must answer, said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), include how much money is available, how much the match is, and how much the state needs to unlock federal funds.

American Rescue Plan

Minnesota was also awarded $180.7 million through the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. To access the fund, capital projects must:

  • directly enable work, education and health monitoring;

  • address needs arising from, exacerbated by or identified following the COVID-19 pandemic; and

  • address a critical need of the community served.

To date, $130.7 million to expand access to broadband in Minnesota has been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. This includes $15 million for a new program to help homes and businesses defray the construction costs of bringing broadband services from the road to the door.

The state is awaiting a federal response — possibly by fall 2023 — on another proposed $50 million for multi-purpose community facility projects that’d be administered by the Department of Education. Examples of eligible projects include improving internet access at libraries or creating employment centers at community health care sites.

Adosh Unni, the department’s director of government relations, said the expected 2- to 2 ½-year turnaround to spend funds once they’re allocated is manageable.

Scandia is working on their 5 year broadband plan (Washington County)

Country Messenger provides an update on the state of broadband in Scandia…

Since 2020, Scandia’s Internet Action Committee has been working with the goal of bringing high speed broadband to all of Scandia within five years

Between 2020 and 2021, 426 homes were added and in 2021, 171 homes were added.

When the 2022 project is complete, the three-year total will be approximately 586 homes will have access to high-speed internet. This represents 74 percent coverage.

For 2023 Scandia has allocated $432,000 in local funding for another expansion and requested MidCo provide a plan for the city’s approval, including additional outside grant money where possible.

More is planned…

According to Wilmers, “Washington County approved a new grant through the federally funded American Rescue Plan (ARPA) for MidCo to connect an additional 112 homes around Big Marine Lake.”

Total project cost is $745,000, with $280,000 from MidCo, $372,500 from Washington County and $92,500 from Scandia.

“Construction will be spread over two years, starting in 2023 with completion by the end of 2024. The project will deploy 44,000 feet of fiber necessitating the multiyear construction schedule,” said Wilmers.

And in nearby Forest Lake too…

In addition to the high-speed internet expansion projects in Scandia, MidCo also received a Minnesota Broadband grant that will serve 323 homes in Forest Lake in the amount of $975,131.

MidCo received the award from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) through department’s Border-to-Border Development Grant program.

Ribbon cutting in Hawick to celebrate ARPA funded broadband project (Kandiyohi)

KWLM radio in Willmar reports

The ribbon was cut Wednesday on another high-speed internet project in Kandiyohi County…

…Willmar and Kandiyohi County Economic Development Commission Director Aaron Backman says Hawick was able to use Federal ARPA funds for the project. Backman says The Kandiyohi County Board decided to use most of the ARPA funds for broadband projects, like the one they cut the ribbon on in Prinsburg earlier this month…

…The State of Minnesota this month announced 100 million dollars in Border to Border Broadband Grants, including a 4.9 million dollar grant to go toward a project that will be built by Federated Telephone starting this spring in Mamre, St. Johns, Arctander, Dovre and Lake Andrew Townships, which will provide or improve internet service to 640 homes, farms and businesses.

We all do better when we are all better connected – study shows how

Common Sense has released analysis of how universal connectivity benefits education, health care, government services, and employment. They look at three things:

  • How Institutions Use Connectivity
  • The Infrastructure Required to Innovate Essential Services
  • How Federal Funds Can Close the Digital Divide and Ensure Equitable Access to Essential Services.

The whole report is interesting but for most readers I think the last section will be of particular interest. They give step-by-step recommendations on how states can maximize impact by:

  • Building State Capacity
  • Mapping the Divide
  • Planning with Institutions
  • Promoting the ACP
  • Creating Sustainable Funding and Policies

Nobles County invests $4 million in broadband with local and ARPA funds

The Worthington Globe reports

The Nobles County Board of Commissioners boosted the local “Fiber to Home” broadband effort by reaffirming its $2 million commitment and kicking in another $2 million after a grant application for USDA funding was denied.

“We’re dumbfounded,” said Mark Loosbrock, secretary/treasurer of Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company, which spearheaded the project. “They had maps that our engineers, that nobody had. That’s why that money got denied.”

Loosbrock explained that in applying for the grant, engineers and consultants used maps to assess the area already served by broadband, and given that information had believed they would be given a high number of points on the grant’s scoring rubric. However, those assessing the application had maps not available to the co-op’s engineers, Loosbrock said.

However, the co-op was told it could apply for a grant in the next round of funding — which has a November deadline, driving co-op representatives to return to the county board to ask for direction and potentially, enough local matching funding to reapply for the grant.

They decided to double down on their investment…

In the end, commissioners reaffirmed their prior commitment of $2 million, once again contingent on the grant being accepted, and then voted to put $1 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act money to the project.

Following those board actions, Commissioner Justin Ahlers proposed directing $250,000 of the county’s wind energy production money per year for four years toward the project — after calling Metz back to the commission to answer a few questions about the wind production funds. Metz said he anticipated better wind energy production gains this year, and then returned to his place in the audience.

Ahlers’ motion passed 3-0.

County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp praised the broadband initiative for its economic development potential, and Ahlers emphasized how important it is for education.


Senators Klobuchar and Smith announce ARPA ReConnect funding coming to Freeborn, Morrison, Stearns, Todd and Houston Counties

Senator Klobuchar reports

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that they have secured significant federal funding to expand access to high-speed broadband in rural Minnesota communities. This investment, provided through the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s ReConnect program, will help connect over 6,000 people, 150 businesses, and 680 farms across Freeborn, Morrison, Stearns, Houston, and Todd counties. The American Rescue Plan, which Klobuchar and Smith supported and was signed into law last year, delivered significant supplemental funding for the ReConnect program. This affordable broadband will be deployed by Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association in Freeborn County, Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association in Morrison, Stearns and Todd counties, and Spring Grove Communications in Houston County.

Sherburne County to invest $1.5 million from ARPA in better broadband

Patriot News reports...

Sherburne County Commissioners approved a $1.5 million grant program to expand broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of the county.

The money will help bring reliable, affordable high-speed internet to more Sherburne County households and businesses, with the funds coming from the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The grants will be awarded to service providers for eligible projects that 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.

They are looking for provider partners…

Sherburne County will accept applications for Broadband Access Grants through Sept. 30, 2022. Interested parties can find a link to the application at the county’s website: http://www.co.sherburne.mn.us.

OPPORTUNITY: Sherburne County to invest $1.5 million ARPA funds into better broadband

KSNI radio St Cloud reports

A $1.5 million grant program for broadband service expansion in Sherburne County has been approved.

Sherburne County Commissioners approved the money, which will come from American Rescue Plan Act Funding, to help bring affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service to more homes and businesses. The grants will be awarded for eligible projects that meet or exceed certain upload and download speeds.

“Investing in broadband is a County Board priority that creates opportunities to boost growth and prosperity throughout Sherburne County,” said Board Chair Barbara Burandt.

Applications will be accepted through September 30th.

Learn more by clicking here.

Thomson Township pledge ARPA funds for Border to Border applications in Carlton County

The Pine Journal reports

Thomson Township supervisors made a resolution of support and pledged $187,500 to two broadband initiatives in the area during a meeting Thursday, July 21.

The two initiatives include a Mediacom broadband expansion and joining the Cloquet broadband project, both of which are applying to secure state funding for their projects.

Leah Pykkonen, the township’s deputy clerk, presented the Mediacom proposal to the board and explained its benefits.

According to Pykkonen, the project would cover 420 homes in the northern part of the township and connect to the existing infrastructure.

They will be using ARPA funds…

Town Clerk Rhonda Peleski said the township has $565,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and some of it could be allocated for broadband expansion. …

After some deliberation between board members, they agreed on pledging $150,000 to the Mediacom project.

The Cloquet broadband project, which the supervisors also pledged support to, has a smaller scope for the township as it would only cover 92 homes.

With that in mind, Paulson said it would make sense to give the project 25% of the funding, $37,500, as it would be closer to an equal share compared to the number of homes covered with the Mediacom project.