Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, along with Congressman Pete Stauber, announced Wednesday, Sept. 25, over $1.9 million in funding for broadband deployment in Aitkin County.

The Community Connect grant of $1,953,464 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is intended to construct a fiber broadband network helping spur economic, business, telehealth, and educational improvements in Rice River Township and Spalding Township.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“Our 21st century economy demands 21st century infrastructure, and that requires investments in roads, bridges, airports, and rural broadband,” Klobuchar stated in a news release. “This crucial funding will connect these communities -- bringing high speed internet to even more Minnesotans. We must continue working to expand broadband access in our rural areas, a necessity for our families and businesses.”

Sen. Tina Smith
Sen. Tina Smith

“Broadband isn’t just nice, it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” Smith stated in the release. “Whether you’re a student doing homework, a business owner selling products, a farmer using modern equipment, or a person who is trying to access health care, you need to be able to connect. I fought to authorize the Community Connect Grant Program and update it in the 2018 Farm Bill to expand access to broadband in rural communities and on tribal lands. I’m glad to see USDA investing in Aitkin County, including Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, to ensure rural Minnesotans aren’t left behind in our work to provide affordable and reliable service to everyone.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber

“Access to broadband is vital to the success of every American, but unfortunately, too many communities across rural Minnesota are underserved,” Stauber stated in the release. “Since arriving in Congress, improving broadband access in rural communities has been a top priority of mine and I look forward to seeing Aitkin County use this critical investment to help local schools, hospitals, businesses and families succeed.”

This rural development investment will be used to construct a fiber-to-the-premises network to 235 establishments in portions of the Aitkin County townships. This includes tribal land and facilities of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative in Aitkin will construct a broadband network to support service at levels up to 1 gigabyte per second for each subscriber. This broadband network will assist in economic and business development, as well as telehealth and educational improvements, the release stated.