ST. PAUL, MN, January 28, 2021 – Governor Tim Walz announced that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will award grants totaling $20,645,425 to 39 projects in the sixth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. State grant dollars are matched by $33,695,279 in local funds, for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $54,340,704.
“The pandemic this past year has made it crystal clear that fast, reliable broadband access is critical for people living in Greater Minnesota – for everything from education and health care to business operations and telecommuting,” said Governor Walz. “These grants continue this vitally important work toward our goal of ensuring that every Minnesotan has high-speed internet access by 2022.”
“Connection is foundational for communities to thrive. These grants will go to help Minnesotans get critical access to broadband,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “Now more than ever, we need to make sure Minnesotans have access to high-quality broadband to help our communities thrive, businesses survive, and students learn.”
“As we look to promoting economic recovery from the pandemic, these grants help ensure that every Minnesotan can participate in building back our state’s economy even stronger,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We want to be a model state for innovation – and having reliable, high-speed internet access is fundamental to that goal.”
The projects will bring high-quality broadband access to underserved and unserved areas of Minnesota, providing fast, reliable internet access for 6,922 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions.
During the 2019 legislative session, the Governor signed into law a total of $40 million in one-time funds for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program in 2020 and 2021. Altogether, for FY21 funding, DEED received requests for $42 million in funding for 64 different applications during the latest grant application round.
The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is primarily targeted towards communities in Greater Minnesota, where broadband infrastructure is not as likely to be at a level that is needed to support economic equity. A map of projects awarded grants in 2021 is posted on DEED’s website.
The State of Minnesota has set a goal for universal access and high-speed internet so that by no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second. And by no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.
This is the sixth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. The grants announced today bring the number of homes and businesses provided broadband access through the grant program since 2014 to a total of over 56,800.
The funding, which was approved during the 2019 legislative sessions, goes to broadband providers to build out wireline broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved locations across the state. Locally, the following were awarded the Border-to-Border Broadband Grants:
• AcenTek – Rural Peterson Exchange FTTH – GRANT $1,492,096. This last mile project will serve 214 unserved households, 18 unserved businesses, 88 unserved farms, and two unserved community anchor institutions as well as 47 underserved households and five underserved businesses in areas of Fillmore and Winona counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Fillmore County EDA, AcenTek will improve these 374 locations’ broadband levels up to 1 Gbps download and 100 Mbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. These investments will bring the benefits of high-speed broadband, increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for the people who live, work, and farm in the rural Peterson area. Total eligible project cost is $4,973,654. Local match is $3,481,558.
• MiBroadband, LLC – Rural Preston FTTP – GRANT $1,173,330. The Rural Preston fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) project will serve 231 unserved and 26 underserved locations in the rural portions of southern Fillmore County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, City of Preston and Fillmore County, MiBroadband will improve speeds to 1 Gbps down and 1 Gbps upload on a fiber network, exceeding the State’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals. Building a FTTP network will improve access to education and health care services. It will also increase employment as businesses leverage this new network and telecommuting opportunities become accessible. Total eligible project cost is $3,370,372. Local match is $2,197,042.