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FCC to distribute $39 million for rural broadband in Minn.

A total of 11,979 rural Minnesota homes and small businesses will gain access to high-speed internet service for the first time through the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund Phase II auction.

In Minnesota, the auction allocated $38,863,791 in support to be distributed over the next 10 years to expand rural broadband service in unserved areas. A total of 16 providers won support from the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in rural areas where, absent this funding, this type of broadband expansion and ongoing service would not be economically feasible.

Nationwide, the auction allocated $1.488 billion in support to be distributed over the next 10 years for 103 providers to expand rural broadband service in unserved areas in 45 states.

Four of the providers selected for funding in Minnesota serve the local seven-county area.

• Johnson Telephone Co.: Aitkin County, $81,273.

• Midcontinent Communications: Cass County, $125,998; Todd County, $16,330; and Wadena County, $327,604.

• Consolidated Telephone Co.: Crow Wing County, $542,161; and Todd County, $392,773.

• West Central Telephone Association: Todd County, $737,374; and Wadena County, $159,338.

The auction encouraged innovation and deployment of robust service by giving providers the flexibility to use any broadband technology to meet the FCC's buildout and performance standards for fixed service, the release stated. The auction design included a weighted preference for service with higher speeds, higher usage allowances and lower latency.

As a result, 53 percent of all homes and businesses nationwide served with support from the auction will have broadband available with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Nineteen percent will have gigabits service available. And 711,389 locations—all but 0.25 percent—will have at least 25 Mbps service available, more than twice the 10 Mbps minimum standard for the Connect America Fund program.

The auction also unleashed robust price competition, meaning more locations will be served at less cost to Americans who pay into the fund, the FCC stated. Although the 713,176 locations assigned had an initial reserve price of $5 billion over the next decade nationwide, the final price tag to cover these locations is now only $1.488 billion.

Providers must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in a state within three years of becoming authorized to receive support. Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reach at the end of the sixth year.

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. In addition to the funding provided by this auction, the commission is working toward the launch of a $4.53 billion Mobility Fund Phase II auction to expand 4G LTE wireless coverage throughout rural America. And the Connect America Fund is in the midst of providing over $9 billion over a six-year period for rural broadband in areas served by large carriers.

In addition to modernizing its support programs, the FCC is also working to reduce the cost of broadband deployment by eliminating needless regulatory barriers and by freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband, the release stated.

More information is available at www.fcc.gov/auction/903. A map of winning bids is available at www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf2-auction903-results.