From Pine County:
Pine County announced today that it was awarded $5,576,250 of federal funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The bill was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 9, by the U.S. Senate on March 10, and then signed into law by President Biden.
The funding is the result of an application for a community project through Congressman Pete Stauber and supported in the Senate by Senators Klobuchar and Smith. Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) initiated the project and worked with Pine County to complete the application.
The project will construct nearly 300 miles of fiber optic network in census tract 9504 which is generally the area east of the cities of Hinckley and Sandstone. The goal of the project is to bring reliable, convenient, and affordable broadband to the 2,440 households and businesses within the census tract. The project will also provide fiber access to St. Croix State Park, St. Croix State Forest, Pine Grove Academy, Mille Lacs Band Health and Human Services, and many small businesses and resort communities.
County Commissioner Terry Lovgren, whose district encompasses much of the project area stated, “I am very excited for this project, for the 2,440 households and businesses that will be able to receive this benefit allowing them to work from home, do schoolwork or just relax watching a game or movie—activities they are not able to do at this time. This is a huge success for our county!”
“Pine County has been working hard to bring broadband to our residents knowing it will be a long road as we are a large county ranked 86 out of 87 for counties with the worst broadband. We have made good progress correcting this by getting broadband to many unserved/underserved residents with the knowledge we have a long way to go. In 2021 it was made clear that broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity, one that we hope to make available to all of our residents.”
Since January 2021, Pine County has made improving access to broadband a priority and has been named a Blandin Broadband Community. Since that time, the county has secured nearly $8.4 million to improve broadband in Pine County.