The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is awarding $23,270,933 in Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program funds to 30 broadband projects across the state, including in Staples. The projects will bring high-quality broadband access to under-served and unserved areas of Minnesota, providing fast, reliable internet access for more than 10,900 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions to support economic equity, according to a DEED press release.
The West Central Telephone Association received a grant of $555,355 for phase one of a project to serve 69 unserved households and 40 unserved businesses, farms and community anchor institutions in areas of Staples and Villard townships in Todd County, areas of Thomastown township in Wadena County and areas of Becker township in Cass County.
In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Sourcewell and Region 5, WCTA will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps for downloads and 1 Gbps for uploads, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The total eligible cost is $1,234,123 and the local match is $678,768.
Broadband access will allow farmers and ranchers to follow markets, talk with customers, reach new markets and use the latest precision agriculture tools to enhance their operations. The broadband network will improve access to health care, specifically mental health and senior care through e-visits and tele-health applications. Broadband will also help business owners manage remotely and could stimulate the local economy.
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, DEED received requests for $70 million in funding for 80 different applications during the latest grant application round.
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 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least three Mbps. And that 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 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 20 Mbps.
“You simply can’t participate in the innovation sector — or almost any sector of the economy today, for that matter — without high speed access to the internet,” said Steve Grove, DEED Commissioner. “These grants help us reach that last mile of service in Minnesota and our goal to be a model state where you don’t have to move to a metro area to participate in the 21st century economy.”