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REGIONAL- Only one North Country broadband proposal was funded by the Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development in the latest round of Border-to-Border grant awards released last …
REGIONAL- Only one North Country broadband proposal was funded by the Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development in the latest round of Border-to-Border grant awards released last week.
Competition for the awards was intense, and less than half of those entities that submitted proposals received grants. In all, 61 projects in 48 counties received almost $100 million to bring high-speed broadband too an additional 30,000 locations.
Paul Bunyan Communications (PBC) has been awarded $3.05 million to expand its fiber optic services to portions of Ball Bluff, Bearville, Cornish, French, Pike, Sandy, Verdon and Wuori Townships in Aitkin, Itasca and St Louis counties. This $7.63 million all-fiber optic project will pass a minimum of 1,035 locations. PBC and local townships will be investing $4.58 million to build out the system.
“We are excited to continue our expansion efforts to provide access to broadband Internet speeds to those without it in our region,” said Gary Johnson, PBC CEO/General Manager. “Our cooperative has a long history of expanding our network to underserved areas, but it has become increasingly challenging to go it alone without grant support. These areas will now not only get broadband access, but they will also go from slow satellite or dial up Internet to speeds of up to a 10 Gigabits per second and become part of one of the largest rural Gigabit networks in the country.”
Paul Bunyan Communications expects to develop the expansion plans over the next year and will contact locations along the upcoming expansion routes in spring of 2024. The entire project will be completed by June 30, 2025.
“This is going to bring symmetrical fiber-optic broadband to very rural locations that desperately need it. This will be a game changer for the residents in these areas,” added Steve Howard, PBC Information Technology and Development Manager.
PBC services that will become available once the network is operational include Broadband Internet speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second and low cost unlimited local and long-distance voice service.
Proposals for possible North Country locations from two other companies, Frontier Communications and Treehouse Broadband, were not funded in this round of Border-to-Border grants.
Treehouse Broadband, a local Ely company offering fixed wireless broadband services, had proposed a system which would have served much of the Eagles Nest and Armstrong lakes area. The Timberjay attempted to contact the company for comments but had not heard back as of press time on Wednesday.
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