Broadband Grants Will Help Connect Rural Minnesota

Broadband Grants Will Help Connect Rural Minnesota Click to Enlarge Photo: Jake Judd (KNSI)

(KNSI) - Minnesota is awarding more than $23 million in grants to 30 projects throughout the state to including a couple in Central Minnesota.

The money is to help bring high-quality broadband access to 10,900 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions that are underserved and unserved in parts of the state.

Locally, the Melrose Telephone Company and Eden Valley received a grant for $393,890 to upgrade approximately 84 unserved and 336 underserved locations in the Rice Lake and Brown Lake areas in rural Stearns County, and part of the Melrose industrial park near Interstate 94.

Having this advanced access to the Melrose industrial park will address the needs of existing businesses and attract new businesses.

The rural Eden Valley portion of the project will see improved quality of life, including opportunities for business, education, health care, and telecommuting options.

Benton Cooperative Telephone Company has been awarded $936,759 to help serve approximately 253 unserved households, nine unserved businesses, two unserved town halls, and 97 unserved farms in the Ramey ILEC exchange in portions of Alberta and Granite Ledge Townships in Benton County, and parts of Hillman, Lakin, and Morrill Townships in Morrison County, and a piece of Page Township in Mille Lacs County.

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 2020 is posted on DEED’s website.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the grants Tuesday.

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 fifth 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 49,900.