Construction is underway for broadband expansion in the city of Scandia.

Last month, MidCo started work on the city’s 2022 internet expansion program. In 2020, the city of Scandia and the Internet Action Committee (IAC), established the expansion program as part of a five-year plan to increase internet speeds and accessibility within Scandia. 

The goal is to add an average of 200 homes per year for the next five years (2020-2024). The city has been working with county, state and federal resources to secure funding for the project. “The city’s goal is to provide high-speed internet coverage to citizens of Scandia quickly at the lowest cost to the city by leveraging grants,” said City Administrator for Scandia, Ken Cammelliri.

Earlier this spring, the City of Scandia and MidCo were awarded a $100,000 grant through Washington County. Washington County was allocating $2 million for investments in broadband seeking request for funds. Cities, Townships and broadband providers were eligible to apply. Eligible project areas include any unserved or underserved area within Washington County. The city of Scandia was one of the first to apply for the grant. Funds for the grant come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

“For purposes of the ARPA broadband grant, an unserved or underserved area includes households or businesses that are not currently serviced by a wireline connection that delivers reliable broadband service with a minimum speeds of 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload,” explained Jan Lucke, Deputy County Administrator for Washington County.

In addition to the grant, MidCo also received dollars from the Federal Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF.)

“The proposed project areas for 2022 and those are broken down into several distinct areas,” said Robert Wilmers, chair of the IAC.

“The build-out for 2022 includes 48 houses that will be covered by RDOF. The project area that's involved with the grant money from Washington County is what we refer to as Oak Hill Rd North,” he explained. 

“The remaining 114 homes for this year are to be covered by the City of Scandia and Washington County grants.”

The funds will help offset the costs for the 2022 construction season. The cost to the city will be $219,000. The cost to MidCo will be $259,736. 

The construction for 2022 is expected to be completed by late fall with an additional 161 homes connected to high-speed broadband. 

“When the projects for 2022 are complete, the three-year total for number of homes added will be 587,” said Wilmers. 

Out of 1,794 homes in the project area, 1330 will be connected to high-speed broadband. This represents 75% coverage by the end of the year. 

The total cost for 2022 internet expansion project will be $578,736.

The estimated cost per individual build for this project is approximately $5,077. MidCo typically self-supports build-outs that are estimated by the City of Scandia to be between $2,000 and $2,500. 

“The committee anticipates the grant support need will increase as build areas include less densely populated areas and larger distances that are more expensive to connect,” he added.

The total cost of the internet expansion project between 2020 – 2022 will be $2,335,597. The cost to the City of Scandia will be $629,000. The cost to MidCo will be $1,017,415, the grant through Washington County covers $100,000 and the total cost to the state of Minnesota will be $589,182.

 

Internet expansion 2020-2021

In 2020, the city of Scandia already had 743 homes connected to high-speed broadband. During the 2020 construction season a 255 homes were added at a cost of $160,000 to the City. The cost to MidCo was $350,359. The state of Minnesota covered $510,358. During the 2021 construction season 171 homes were added at a cost of $250,000 to the City. The cost to MidCo was $407,320. The state of Minnesota covered $78,824.

 

Project plans for 2023

The committee is currently working on plans for 2023 and beyond. “We are hopeful that new county, state and federal funding assistance will be available to allow us to continue as planned,” said Wilmers.

The IAC will take up the question of applying the city’s $100,000 savings as a result of the Washington County grant to an expansion project in 2023 at the meeting on June 16.  

With more support through state and federal expected for 2023-2024, the IAC will continue to work on grant funding opportunities with MidCo, Washington County, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the state line extension program. 

To help keep local costs lower, the committee will continue to seek financial support through RDOF, ARPA and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 

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