The push to expand broadband into rural parts of May Township continues.
Last week, officials for May Township met with Melissa Wolf, Government Relations Manager for Midcontinent Communications (MidCo), and agreed to write a letter of support for the internet provider’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant application.
If approved, the funds would expand broadband service to 575 homes and businesses in May Township that are currently unserved or underserved.
The project would expand broadband to areas including 1.) west of Marine on St. Croix along Old Guslander Trail to Morris Trail and north on Ostrum Trail north. 2.) west of Big Carnelian Lake along Square Lake Trail north, portions of Norell Avenue north and north on Manning Trail. 3.) south of Marine on St. Croix along Highway 95 to the township border and west on Square Lake Trail north.
According to Wolf, “Total project cost is approximately $3.4 million. Midco would cover $1.6 million and Washington County would cover $311,000.”
MidCo is also submitting a request to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to cover $1.5 million - or 45% of the cost.
“The only cost to residents would be the $100 installation fee and service tier they chose,” said Bobbi Hummel, clerk/treasurer for the Town of May.
“The only exception would be if someone has a long driveway. In that case, residents might need to contribute some of the cost of connecting the infrastructure to their home,” she said.
Supervisors Steve Magner and John Pazlar stated that they were, “happy to send a letter of support [on behalf of MidCo’s grant application].”
Pazlar asked Wolf what percentage of success the grant has of getting approved. “MidCo has submitted a Border-to-Border grant every time the grants have been available and we have had very good success,” she explained. “In 2022 we submitted two grants and both were approved.”
Wolf added, “The office of broadband development likes to see that the project is supported by the residents. We have received a number of letters from residents that will be submitted with the application. Utilizing funds through Washington County is also helpful. If we are able to keep our request under 50%, we will have a strong application and a good chance at getting it approved.”
The deadline to submit the Border-to-Border grant application is March 3, 2023. Supervisors for May Township will know if the grant is approved by late May or early June. If the application is successful, the expansion project will begin in 2024 and be completed by the end of the year.
“I get a lot of feedback from citizens with other internet providers,” said Pazlar.
“I only heard positive things about MidCO. It would great if the grant were to go through. Fingers crossed.”
Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program
In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) created the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
The focus of this grant program is to provide financial resources for new and existing internet providers to invest in building broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state.
An unserved area of Minnesota is described as households or businesses that lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threshold of 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload. An underserved area is an area of Minnesota in which households or businesses do receive service at or above the FCC threshold but lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second download and 20 megabits per second upload.
For 2023, $67 million will be available for the Border-to-Border grants. MidCo was awarded $975,131 for broadband expansion in Washington County.
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