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Kandiyohi and Meeker counties join together to bring broadband to residents

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution supporting Vibrant Broadband of Litchfield's application for a USDA ReConnect grant. If awarded, the grant would bring high-speed broadband to not only townships in Meeker County, but nine townships in Kandiyohi County.

Stock photo of laying fiber
The Kandiyohi and Meeker County Boards approved resolutions on Feb. 15 supporting a USDA ReConnect Broadband grant application from Vibrant Broadband in Litchfield. If approved, the grant would fund a fiber optic broad band project in nine townships in Kandiyohi County and nine townships in Meeker County.
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WILLMAR — Over the past year, Kandiyohi County has been concentrating on bringing high-speed broadband to all corners of the county. The County Board has even pledged to use up to 75% of its American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus relief money to fund various broadband projects.

At the Feb. 15 County Board meeting, the commissioners approved a letter of support for a grant application being pursued by a party outside of Kandiyohi County. Vibrant Broadband from Litchfield is applying for a USDA ReConnect grant, which, if awarded, would bring high-speed broadband to nine townships in eastern Kandiyohi County, along with nine townships in western Meeker County.

Both the Kandiyohi County and Meeker County boards of commissioners approved resolutions supporting the application at their Feb. 15 meetings.

"This is a great opportunity for Kandiyohi County to work with a partner to receive high-speed internet for the east side of our county," said Larry Kleindl, Kandiyohi County administrator.

The project would include laying fiber-optic cable. If the grant is awarded, there is no county match, meaning Kandiyohi County would not have to put any money toward the project.

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"I look forward to this partnership," Kleindl said.

More Kandiyohi County Board coverage:
With $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds still uncommitted, the Kandiyohi County Board will continue its discussion on possible ways of spending the money during a work session on Tuesday, following the regular county board meeting.

To help build the case for the grant approval, Kleindl said it is important that residents in the nine impacted townships of Kandiyohi County — Burbank, Roseville, Irving, Harrison, Kandiyohi, Gennessee, Fahlun, Lake Elizabeth and East Lake Lillian — take a speed test of their current internet service. The test can be found on the Vibrant Broadband website at vibrantbb.net .

The United States Department of Agriculture, which is offering the ReConnect grant program, is focusing on areas that are unserved or underserved by high-speed internet. If enough residents in the grant coverage area show lacking internet service, it could mean a greater chance the grant will be awarded.

"Even if you have taken it in the past, take the speed test again," Kleindl said. "I encourage you to take the test. It shows what the need is."

Since April 2021 the Kandiyohi County Board has awarded nearly $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward county broadband projects . The more grants that are awarded to the county, such as the ReConnect grant, the further the county's funds will stretch for other projects.

"The broadband committee is working very hard to put all these pieces (in place)," Kleindl said. "We know this is the time: This is the time we need to act to get internet and broadband to our rural areas. If you don't do it now, when would we do it?"

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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