Kandiyohi County, Charter Communications partner on $800,000 broadband project to serve 170 customers with ARPA funds

West Central Tribune reports…

Elected officials from Kandiyohi County and representatives from Charter Communications symbolically broke ground Monday on an $800,000 project that Charter said will bring broadband internet service to more than 170 rural, unserved homes and small businesses.

The event in New London Township was also a celebration of the partnerships between local elected officials and Charter Communications that made the project possible.

The agreement between Kandiyohi County and Charter Communications includes nearly $240,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was secured by the county, along with more than $563,000 in private investment from Charter.

St. Louis County says yes to Rice Lake broadband project

Duluth News Tribune reports

The city of Rice Lake will bring broadband internet to its City Hall and connect more than 200 households and businesses, following a decision by the St. Louis County Board last week.

The board voted unanimously to support $400,000 to go with a city of Rice Lake match to make the $835,835 deal a reality.

Consolidated Telephone Co., headquartered in Brainerd, has committed $35,835 toward the project, and is contracted to install the fiber-optic network.

“We’re looking at 267 connections with this project,” Rice Lake City Councilor Suzanne Herstad told the board May 3 in Duluth. “Hopefully, this will still be a good building block to start doing a piece here and there, setting up loops wherever we can.”

Herstad noted the failure of a larger federal application, and still wanting to partner on continued efforts at improved rural broadband connectivity with Gnesen Township to the north, and Lakewood, Grand Lake and Normanna townships in surrounding directions.

They are using ARP funding…

“This is a much-scaled-down project,” Herstad said, explaining how Rice Lake City Hall, 4107 W. Beyer Road, had been using satellite internet, but is required to hold a static internet protocol address in order to conduct election business.

Kandiyohi County spends almost $500,000 on ARPA on broadband in Hawick and around Long Lake

The West Central Tribune reports…

Over the last several weeks, the Broadband and Advanced Technology Committee has been working closely with Vibrant Broadband of the Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association to design and obtain funding for broadband projects on the east side of the county.

The committee is part of the Kandiyohi County and city of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

“Broadband has been such a priority for us and we’ve struggled to get things moving,” said Kandiyohi County Commissioner Corky Berg.

At the April 19 County Board meeting, the commissioners approved spending $444,700 of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation toward a fiber-to-the-home broadband project in Hawick and around Long Lake. The project would reach 289 properties that are currently underserved or unserved by high-speed broadband. …

The total project is estimated to cost $1,005,000. Roseville and Irving townships will be providing $57,800 in funding for the project, with Vibrant funding the rest.

Since the county’s $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds began to arrive, the County Board has planned to dedicate nearly 75% of it to broadband expansion. While a few of the projects need grant approvals to move forward, the county has approved funding to a handful of smaller plans.

Lakeville looks at $300,000 of ARP funding for broadband

Patch reports

The city of Lakeville was awarded $5.4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan that was signed into law last year.

They outline where the money is going including broadband…

  • $300,000 — Broadband (project not finalized)

Kandiyohi County and Meeker County working with Vibrant on ReConnect grant

The West Central reports

Over the past year, Kandiyohi County has been concentrating on bringing high-speed broadband to all corners of the county. The County Board has even pledged to use up to 75% of its American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus relief money to fund various broadband projects.

At the Feb. 15 County Board meeting, the commissioners approved a letter of support for a grant application being pursued by a party outside of Kandiyohi County. Vibrant Broadband from Litchfield is applying for a USDA ReConnect grant, which, if awarded, would bring high-speed broadband to nine townships in eastern Kandiyohi County, along with nine townships in western Meeker County.

Both the Kandiyohi County and Meeker County boards of commissioners approved resolutions supporting the application at their Feb. 15 meetings. …

The project would include laying fiber-optic cable. If the grant is awarded, there is no county match, meaning Kandiyohi County would not have to put any money toward the project.

Carlton County considers ARPA money – broadband makes shortlist

The Pine Journal reports…

Some leniency in the final ruling on how to use American Rescue Plan Act funds will give the Carlton County Board of Commissioners more options on how to spend the money, officials said.

The board started discussions on what its priorities should be and how to move forward with the funds during its committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The board will have $6.97 million to spend on projects.

Broadband made the very short list…

Two of the main items brought up by the board were improving roads and broadband access throughout the county.

There were some thoughts…

When it comes to broadband, Finnegan said it would be best to wait to see how the federal infrastructure funds are used before making a decision.

“We just don’t want to use our money for broadband until we are sure of what other buckets of money are out there,” she said. “Our money could be used as a match to federal dollars.”

Succinct notes on Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities from Common Sense

How do you wrap up some of the largest broadband funding opportunities ever into a concise, pretty easy-to-use format? Use very small print. But thanks to the hard work from Common Sense Media and the ability to zoom in on a PDF, that information is a ton more accessible in one place. They look at the practicalities of:

  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
  • American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
  • Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (CA
  • Other Broadband ProgramsA21)

Senator Klobuchar talks to mayors around Marshall MN about federal funding, including broadband (Lyon County)

The Marshall Independent reports

The mayors of area cities including Tyler, Slayton, Pipestone and Luverne spoke to Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a conference call Friday morning. The main topic of discussion was infrastructure.

“I want to find out what projects you have, and what your priorities are,” Klobuchar said.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in November will give the opportunity to “repair and transform” highways, bridges, and other infrastructure in Minnesota, Klobuchar said.

On Friday, federal officials released the first award amounts that will come from the infrastructure spending, which included $60 million for Minnesota bridge repairs. Minnesota is set to receive a total of about $300 million for bridge repairs and $4.5 billion for highways, Klobuchar said.

Federal infrastructure spending will also include funding to improve water infrastructure and broadband access. Both are needs that southwestern Minnesota residents have been grappling with.

“We have 144,000 Minnesotans without access to high-speed internet,” Klobuchar said.

Area mayors spoke on all those topics.

ILSR combs through Treasury Department’s assessment of ARPA funding for broadband

The Institute for Local Self Reliance has combed through the Treasury Department’s rules for the State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), which is a partial preview of what will be possible, likely and probably not going to work for folks interested in getting  American Rescue Plan Act funding…

The relevant broadband infrastructure sections of the final rule are on pages 260-264 and 294-313. Pages 85-90 focus on digital inclusion, which is relevant and overlapping depending on community plans.

In general, the SLFRF has simplified the rules to give more flexibility to state and local governments (across all of the eligible uses, not just broadband infrastructure). The original rule focused on areas lacking reliable 25/3 Mbps service – with a big focus on the word “reliable.” But there is no mention of 25/3 in the Final Rule.

Local governments do still have to make a determination that they are building the network to solve one of the problems that SLFRF uses as a trigger to allow broadband infrastructure investments, but they do not have to get approval from Treasury or any other entity. More detail below, but the triggers include lack of access to a reliable 100/100 connection or lack of access to affordable broadband service.

Any network built with SLFRF must be designed to deliver 100 Mbps download and upload, with the ability to do only 100/20 Mbps in some situations. That is the same as in the Interim Final Rule but now networks must also support the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) for as long as the program exists.

They go into greater detail…

Kandiyohi County and Reps Baker and Lang make broadband a hot topic

The West Central Tribune reports…

State Rep. Dave Baker and Sen. Andrew Lang, during a visit to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, agreed with the commissioners on the importance of getting broadband to the rural areas of the county. Both said completing changes to legislation language and grant matches were important priorities for this year’s legislative session.

Broadband was a hot topic…

The topic the group spent the most time on during Tuesday’s meeting was broadband. Since early 2021, the county board has made expanding the reach of high speed broadband a high priority, even pledging up to 75% of its coronavirus relief funds from the American Rescue Plan act to the cause.

“This group of people are very committed to broadband,” said Connie Schmoll, who has been working on county broadband projects on a contracted basis.

In recent months the state and federal government have also brought broadband forward as a priority, in part due to the pandemic and how it showed the need for high speed internet access across the nation. The federal infrastructure bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband infrastructure, some of which will come to Minnesota.

“It has become the new rural electric issue. It is infrastructure, it has to happen,” said Commissioner Rollie Nissen.

However, not everything is running smoothly in getting broadband projects approved, funded and constructed. Some of the rules and regulations attached to state broadband grants and federal funding are making it difficult for the county to put all the pieces together. Kandiyohi County has its eye on both a federal grant and a state Border to Border grant, but those regulations are slowing the process.

One of the biggest issues still be hashed out is whether both the state and local units of government like Kandiyohi County can use American Rescue Plan act dollars to fund the same broadband project. Kandiyohi County wants to use part of its ARP money to fund the 50% local match required of the state Border to Border broadband grant. However, the state might use its ARP money to pay its half of the project as well, and state law doesn’t allow that.

“That would really be helpful, if we would remove some of those barriers applying for those grants,” Imdieke said.

The county would also like to see the match local governments are asked to pay when awarded a state broadband grant, presently 50%, to be lowered, to make it easier for more rural areas to participate.

They have run into a familiar hiccup…

Yet another barrier is the inability for the county, when using the state Border to Border program, to be able to extend broadband to areas already within the purview of a private service provider, whether that business provides the service to that area or not. Incumbent first right of refusal means if an unserved or underserved area is within the service area of a private internet provider, that provider can block a Border to Border funded project from moving forward. The county has run into problems with this rule in the past. Kleindl would like to see that rule removed.

Both Baker and Lange agreed that changes needed to be made to the rules. What may have made sense years ago, such as the first right of refusal or the size of grant matches, might no longer work.

“I think it is policy getting in the way,” Baker said. “Money isn’t the issue.”

The county board, Schmoll and others are pushing for those changes to be made quickly, in time for grants to be awarded and projects to be moved forward for construction.

Kandiyohi County spends $56,000 in ARPA on broadband project

The West Central Tribune reports…

Twenty-three homes along 30th Avenue Northwest in Dovre Township of Kandiyohi County might soon have access to high-speed broadband. A proposed Charter project would bring speeds up to 100 megabits download and 20 megabits upload to the area, which is currently considered unserved by the state.

“It is kind of isolated,” said Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl at the Dec. 21 Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meeting. “We are trying to get them some broadband coverage.”

Continuing its commitment to broadband expansion, the county commissioners approved granting the project $56,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, the latest in several projects to which the board has given money.

The total project is expected to cost $136,000, with Charter contributing $80,500, or 59%, of the cost. Construction is scheduled to begin in April.

Kleindl said Dovre Township will also be asked to participate, which might reduce the county’s share of the bill. However, the county will cover the remaining costs if Dovre Township decides not to take part, as the county doesn’t want Charter to pull out of the project.

Rep Stauber turns down infrastructure bill that will protect life

The Duluth News Tribune posts from a column pointing on Rep Pete Stauber’s vote against broadband…

On Nov. 5, Rep. Pete Stauber voted no on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. Less than a month later, on Dec. 1, he stated his support for dismantling Roe v. Wade, making his well-known “our way of life” argument. These actions were in direct opposition to one another for someone who cares about pro-life stances.

And highlighting importance of broadband to youth…

Our youth will see the largest effort to decrease the class gap since the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. With $100 million for broadband expansion in Minnesota, $20 million for forest fire prevention, and $17 million for cyberattack protection, children of all backgrounds — rich or poor, rural or urban — will have better access to the education necessary to secure a solid career. They will have access to telehealth, which will minimize bottlenecking our health care system. That again would increase opportunities for mothers and babies to see doctors in a timely manner. Upcoming generations deserve to have their privacy.

Rep Michelle Fischbach voted against improving our infrastructure

Echo Press posts a letter to the editor…

Born and raised in Minnesota, I appreciate many things about our wonderful state, and I’m glad to see it getting a boost forward. The newly enacted infrastructure bill brings us billions of dollars to improve Minnesota roads, bridges, water systems, and broadband Internet. This huge investment in the physical and digital resources we all rely on every day benefits our businesses, schools, workers and students.

This popular bill passed the US House and Senate with bipartisan support; however, Representative Michelle Fischbach, Minnesota District 7, voted against it. It is inexcusable that my elected representative opposes a bill that supports jobs and has a positive impact on the people she has sworn to represent.

Recap on Kandiyohi County using ARPA funds to build better broadband in Prinsburg with Arvig

Telecompetitor reports

Prinsburg is a small town with a population of about 500 in largely rural Kandiyohi County. Arvig had discussed various projects with the county over the years.

“Some were close to being successful,” Birkholz said. “This one came through.”

Arvig’s history with the county meant that when ARPA funding was allocated to the county and the city, it made sense for Arvig to reconvene with decision makers.

The ARPA included $350 billion for a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which allocated specific amounts of funding to states, counties and cities that could be used for a variety of purposes, including broadband deployments.

As Birkholz explained, Arvig determined what it would cost to bring fiber broadband to each of the 220 locations in Prinsburg and what portion of the cost Arvig could cover. Arvig’s fiber distribution network reaches to within a few miles of Prinsburg, which helped minimize the cost.

Nevertheless, there was a gap of $550,000.

The solution was to create a public private partnership to build the network. The county earmarked $330,000 of its ARPA funding to the project and Prinsburg contributed $45,000 from its ARPA allocation. In addition, the city contributed $175,000 through a bond.

Plans call for Arvig to begin construction in Prinsburg no later than August 2022 and to complete the project by the end of the year.

Senator Klobuchar Call with Benton, Chisago, Isanti County Officials on how Infrastructure Bill will Expand Rural Broadband: Notes and archive

Here’s the intro…

On Monday, November 22, at 2:00pm CT, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, will hold a call with community broadband advocates from Benton, Chisago, and Isanti Counties to discuss how the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill will help expand broadband to rural Minnesota communities.

Klobuchar will be joined by Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katie Malchow, Isanti County Administrator Julie Lines, and Benton County Commissioner Jared Gapinski, as well as Mary Magnuson, a broadband program administrator at the Blandin Foundation.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill included the largest investment our country has ever made in broadband infrastructure, with many provisions based on Klobuchar’s legislation with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to help bring high-speed internet to every corner of the country.

And my notes, which are bulleted to keep up. From Sen Klobuchar:

  • Broadband coverage seems random at times
  • Blandin was way ahead of its time in recognizing broadband issues in rural Minnesota and creating solutions
  • Access to email isn’t enough anymore; students need to be able to take tests remotely and corporate/healthcare workers need to be able to consult remotely
  • Problems: mapping, giving money to providers that have a history of not meeting needs
  • Solutions: open access to funds to all providers and get money back from providers who don’t meet needs
  • Make broadband affordable – average monthly cost in MN is $68/month

From Katie Malchow

  • Broadband isn’t about politics, it’s about getting people connected
  • We started out broadband journey working with Blandin Foundation
  • We surveyed residents and found a disconnect between what providers said they offered and what consumers saw at home
  • Not all providers are created equal and some have not met the needs of MN residents for a while now. Maybe it’s time to ask folks on the frontlines who they would choose.
  • This is going to be a one-time investment, it’s spend it wisely.

From Jared Gapinski

  • Started talking about broadband as community in Jan 2020 (he’s new to county commission) in Jan 2021 when they realized they have 600-700 hotspots in student home, which meant that many households were un/underserved
  • They want to do a middle mile fiber project to get providers into the area
  • He pays for 100/100 Mbps connection – but it tests at 30/11
  • The community is stuck in RDOF/LTD limbo – waiting to hear from FCC is LTD got the contract
  • We need time to plan and educate to make sure we spend money wisely.

From Julia Lines

  • Broadband coverage is good in the cities but bad in the land between
  • East Central Energy is (finally) talking to them about providing broadband
  • The boundaries of cities/towns/counties are getting in our way
  • MidCo is helping in the cities but not rural areas
  • If we want people to relocate from the Cities to rural areas, we need to provide metro-quality broadband

From Mary Magnuson

  • We worry about the Swiss cheese effect that leaves certain areas unserved and as others become better served those areas fall farther and farther behind
  • RAMS is now hosting the MN state broadband speed test – available to everyone
  • Local places need to have local buy in – especially when it comes to choosing providers in their communities