Governor Tim Walz announced that internet providers in Minnesota will receive millions of dollars in grant funds in order to expand broadband coverage.
"This historic funding will dramatically improve broadband access for thousands of Minnesotans," said Governor Walz. "Broadband connects students to new educational opportunities, provides workers with more flexibility, expands access to healthcare resources and information, and helps us stay connected to the people who matter most. This investment is essential to making Minnesota the best state to live, work, and raise a family – no matter where you live."
61 broadband projects were chosen to receive $99.6 million from the Border-to-Border Broadband program administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)'s Office of Broadband Development.
East Central Energy, which recently announced its decision to become a broadband provider, took home several million dollars from the state.
According to the breakdown provided by DEED, ECE recieved nearly $15 million for broadband projects in Pine, Isanti, and Kanabec counties.
ECE Vice President Ty Houglum said, "This is a historic moment for ECE and the communities we serve. It speaks to the incredible efforts of our employees and the forward-thinking approach of our board of directors.”
These funds are about 13% of ECE's overall need. The project will require around 6000 miles of fiber optic cable to be buried so members have access to high-speed internet, costing $350 million in total. They plan to begin construction within specific areas of Isanti, Kanabec, and Pine counties in 2023 to meet the grant requirement of project completion by June 2025.
In Chisago County, Qwest Corporation dba CenturyLink QC received $465,814.00, and Midcontinent Communications received $1,647,321.00 for a project in Isanti County.
Funding for this program came from two sources - half of a $50 million appropriation from the state Legislature signed into law this year by Governor Walz and $70 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.