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Speeding up the process: Three Wadena area townships to reap benefits of broadband in 2018

Unserved households and businesses in Wadena, Otter Tail and Todd Counties will be on the receiving end of high-speed internet access in 2018.

Townships receiving broadband include Wadena (Wadena), Compton (Otter Tail) and a small portion of Stowe Prairie Township (Todd).

Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development announced 39 broadband projects across Greater Minnesota.

The $28 million being shelled out by the State of Minnesota will leverage another $34 million in private and local funding.

West Central Telephone of Menahga and Sebeka received its third state grant and will be bringing high-speed internet service to 189 homes and 13 businesses next year.

According to West Central Marketing Director Geri Salmela, the telephone cooperative will be matching the state's grant of $874,581 with a contribution of their own of $947,463.

The total cost of the project has been set at $1,822,044.

"We call it Phase 3," Salmela said. "Once that fiber network is built all those people in that area will be able to get gigabit service."

Service has already been brought to much of Wadena County. The first grant ran fiber optics along the Highway 71 corridor, according to Salmela. The second grant expanded on that area and branched out.

In addition to the Phase III grant, West Central received a grant of $902,695 for a project in northern Todd County. The grant will provide broadband to 209 unserved households and six businesses within portions of Staples and Villard Townships. West Central's local match will bring the total cost of the project to $1,805,390.

Salmela indicated that where the Border-to-Border broadband program travels in the future is up to the state.

"I don't know, it depends on whether or not the state is going to continue funding the program," Salmela said. "It's been a great program to help us bring fiber to these areas."

Building the fiber to the home network capable of gigabit broadband service at service levels of one Gigabit per second (GBPS) will exceed the state's speed goal for 2026.

Since 2014 the state grant program has invested $85 million in broadband for outstate Minnesota benefiting 33,852 households, 5,189 businesses and 300 community institutions.