Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday that internet providers will receive nearly $100 million to expand broadband coverage to more Minnesotans, representing the largest single investment in broadband infrastructure in state history.
Of the $100 million investment, which will expand access to over 33,000 across the state, Steele County will receive $158,052 through Spectrum Mid-America, LLC managed by Charter Communications Inc.
“This historic funding will dramatically improve broadband access for thousands of Minnesotans,” Walz said in a press release. “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.”
In total, 61 broadband expansion projects around Minnesota will receive $99.6 million in grants from the Border-to-Border Broadband program administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)’s Office of Broadband Development. Provider grantees estimate the funding will extend new high-speed internet connections to more than 33,000 Minnesota homes and businesses in 48 counties. A list of grant awards by project can be found below, or on DEED’s website.
“Broadband is the plumbing of the twenty-first century – without it, businesses and households can’t participate in today’s economy,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We’re proud to work with broadband providers and offer these historic grants that will empower more growth and more equity in our state.”
The new grants represent a significant acceleration of the Border-to-Border Program: Before today, DEED had provided nearly $130 million in Border-to-Border grants to connect more than 57,000 homes and businesses around Minnesota to high-speed internet since the program’s inception in 2014.
Broadband expansion is a key goal of the Walz-Flanagan Administration. Earlier this year, the Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion named universal affordable broadband access as one of its priorities for expanding the state’s economy. The council recommended that state government:
Ensure every child has access to the internet, appropriate hardware, training and online learning;
Provide affordable access to broadband internet, appropriate hardware, and training for every person in Minnesota to expand digital equity and access to government services, health care, jobs, community resources, and social connection; and
Drive economic competitiveness for Minnesota and enable communities throughout the State to attract and retain residents and businesses by providing affordable broadband access.
This week’s investment includes funding primarily from two sources – half of a $50 million appropriation from the state Legislature signed into law this year by Walz, and $70 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.
The grant maximum is $5 million per project, and grant funds may be used to reimburse up to 50 percent of a grantee’s eligible costs of deploying broadband infrastructure. Projects must meet or exceed the State’s 2026 broadband speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
Next round of funding opening soon
DEED will soon launch a new Border-to-Border Request for Proposals (RFP) to award $67.6 million for broadband deployment ($25 million from the Legislature and $42.6 million in federal funding). RFP applications will be open on or around December 19, 2022.
“We’re excited to continue expanding our reach and help more Minnesotans access high-speed broadband,” said Bree Maki, Executive Director of the DEED Office of Broadband Development. “DEED, broadband providers, and Minnesota communities continue to learn how to best leverage federal, state, local, and private resources in complementary ways to expand broadband services. We encourage providers that weren’t funded today to apply for our next grant round so we can continue working together to serve Minnesotans.”