HARMONY, MN, July 12, 2023 — Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Harmony Telephone Company as a recipient of two Border-to-Border Grants totaling $3.9 million.
Harmony Telephone Company will use the $2.9 million grant and $4.5 million local match to serve 311 households, businesses, and farms north of Fountain in Fillmore County. The $1 million grant and $1.6 local match will be used to serve 68 households, businesses, and farms in rural portions of Fillmore County, north of Preston. Projects will improve unserved levels to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload on their fiber network, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Building a fiber-to-the-premises network will improve access to education and healthcare services. It will also increase employment as businesses leverage this new network and telecommuting opportunities become available.
“Our team not only brings the fiber, but more importantly, we bring local customer service to help set up wireless networks to allow for things such as telecommuting, real-time video monitoring of property and equipment, and viewing of streaming services. Our focus is making lives better by helping people get a fabulous experience from their connection,” Jill Huffman, Harmony Telephone Company CEO said.
In the 2022 legislative session, the legislature allocated $25 million in State General Revenue Funds to the Minnesota Border-to-Border grant program and directed an additional $60.7 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be used for broadband programs of which $42.6 million is available for Minnesota Border-to-Border grants.
“We are grateful for the support by our elected officials who have made investing in this infrastructure a priority, as building a fiber network is expensive for areas with lower population densities,” explained Huffman.
Tentative construction start date for the projects is fall of 2024.
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 $112 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, telephone and video service to Harmony and the surrounding rural area. Ownership by cooperatives means providing quality service remains a top priority.