A round of grants announced at the start of the year by the state and Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will help provide reliable, affordable high-speed internet to currently unserved or underserved rural areas of Minnesota, including in Great River Energy’s service territory.
The additional $34 million in funding will leverage another $40 million in private and local funding to help level the playing field for thousands of Greater Minnesota households and businesses.
“This expansion of broadband will expand education, health and job opportunities for thousands of Minnesotans. It’s not fair when almost 20 percent of Greater Minnesota households don’t have access to opportunity because they don’t have the same broadband connections as their friends and families in the cities,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith in a press release announcing the grants.
Among the 16,627 households, 2,240 business and 71 community institutions in Greater Minnesota that will benefit from this funding are a number that are served by Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC), one of Great River Energy’s 28 member cooperatives. MLEC and Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) were awarded $1.75 million from the state for their overall $3.45 million broadband infrastructure project, which is a 50/50 match between the state and MLEC and CTC.
“The project is completely independent from our electric service. It will not add any additional costs to our members unless they choose to subscribe to the service,” said Stacy Cluff, MLEC information systems and technology administrator.
The MLEC/CTC project will provide fiber to unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Aitkin County, allowing for upload and download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit.
Cluff anticipates project construction to begin in early summer of 2017.
“If things go smoothly with construction, we hope to have some members turned up for service by the end of the year,” she said.