In a news release Thursday, Jan. 23, state Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, announced four entities in Minnesota House District 10B are receiving nearly $2.7 million combined in broadband grants from the state to help upgrade unserved and underserved locations.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in earning grant funding for expanding broadband coverage into areas with little or no service,” Lueck stated in a news release. “Unreliable or nonexistent internet service in parts of our region has held many people, including our school students and businesses, at a disadvantage in today’s electronic world. The grant program requires a significant private sector match and has helped us continue to make progress. While much more work remains, this latest round of awards is another big step forward.”

The funding for the awards is from the state’s Border to Border Broadband Development Program, created by the Minnesota Legislature in 2014 to provide state resources that help make the capital investments necessary for private sector providers to deliver high speed broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state.

The latest round of local grants include:

  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative was awarded $1.3 million for an MLEC Phase 3 fiber to the home project to reach 282 unserved and 225 underserved households, businesses and farms in areas of Farm Island and Nordland townships in Aitkin County.

  • Consolidated Telephone Co. is receiving $830,587 for a Fort Ripley/Executive Acres project to upgrade approximately 279 unserved and 120 underserved locations in Morrison and Crow Wing counties.

  • Emily Cooperative Telephone Co. was awarded $376,000 for a Round Lake fiber project to upgrade approximately 242 unserved and 103 underserved locations in the Esquagamah Lake and Round Lake areas of Aitkin County.

  • SCI Broadband (Savage Communications Inc.) is receiving $195,848 for a Glen Township broadband expansion project to serve 269 unserved homes, three unserved businesses, three unserved farms, one unserved community institution and five underserved homes in areas of Glen Township in Aitkin County.

The program is administered by the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. Awards are issued annually through a competitive process. Each award is met with local contributions either matching or exceeding the state’s contribution. In 2019, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $20 million for the program each of the next two years, $40 million for the biennium.