Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Harmony Telephone Company as a recipient of a Border-to-Border Grant totaling $1.1 million.
The grant program is a partnership between the State of Minnesota and Fillmore County.
Harmony Telephone Company will use the $1.1 million grant and $1.69 million local match to service 34 unserved households, 22 underserved businesses and 56 unserved farms north of Preston in rural areas of Fillmore County. It will improve speeds to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload on a fiber network, exceeding the state’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals.
“Awards like these are imperative for providing opportunities to help rural households, farms and businesses thrive through access to reliable, broadband speed internet.” explained Jill Huffman, Harmony Telephone Company CEO. “We could not offer this service without grants and partnerships due to the low population densities in the rural areas our customers live in.”
Huffman says broadband helps level the playing field for small business owners with their competitors by improving the ways they can connect with business partners, customers and suppliers. It allows telecommuting opportunities for rural residents and children to connect at similar internet speeds as their city classmates.
Harmony Telephone Company was one of 61 award recipients of DEED’s Border-to-Border Grant Program, which announced $100 million in grants December 8 during a virtual press conference.
The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program was created in Minn. Stat. 116J.395 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 federal American Rescue Pan Act (ARPA) Sec. 604 Capital Projects Funds (CPF). With $70 million in ARPA CPF funds, and the remainder in state funding.
Harmony Telephone Company is a privately-held company in Harmony, Minn. It was purchased in 2006 by Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company and Spring Grove Communications. In 2018, MiEnergy Cooperative bought into the company to become an additional owner. It provides broadband and telephone service to Harmony and the surrounding rural area, as well as, cable TV service in Harmony. Ownership by cooperatives means providing quality service remains a top priority.