WILLMAR — Any township in Kandiyohi County that decides to bring high-speed fiber broadband to its residents, or expand a system already in place, is eligible to receive $25,000 from the county to assist with the project.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, at its meeting Tuesday, approved a resolution approving the $25,000 investment for each township that is part of a broadband deployment project. If every township took the county up on its offer, it would cost $600,000.

The board's action comes after a request from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission to the county to financially support broadband expansion.

For related stories, see:

Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission

"A lot of Kandiyohi County is still underserved, or not served at all," said Connie Schmoll, EDC Business Development Manager.

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Connie Schmoll
Connie Schmoll
In Minnesota, a resident is considered served if they have access to broadband internet speeds of 100 megabits per second download and 25 megabits per second upload. There are vast areas of the county that do not have access to speeds anywhere close to that.

"We are behind in Kandiyohi County and we need to move ahead," Schmoll said.

The EDC has been working on broadband expansion for years and recently began putting a project together with Dovre, Mamre and St. Johns townships. However, the expenses were too high for the townships and its residents to handle and the project stalled until recently when another provider stepped forward.

Federated Telephone Company has said it is interested in the project and is offering to pay 25 percent of the costs, higher than the previous service provider, Schmoll said.

If the county is successful in being awarded a state Border to Border broadband grant, which could fund up to 50 percent of a project, and with Federated and the county's funding, Schmoll believes the project is doable.

"We now have this project at the level the townships will participate," Schmoll said.

The broadband project with the three townships is expected to cost around $3.9 million, with the townships needing to pay approximately $1.12 million. That would come out to be about $250 per year on a property owner's taxes for 10 years.

"We believe that is an acceptable amount for residents," Schmoll said.

St. Johns, Dovre and Mamre have all committed to the project, Schmoll said. Federated wanted to be sure of the townships' commitment to the project before moving forward.