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Kandiyohi County awarded $4.9M state broadband grant to help fund project in five townships

Kandiyohi County was awarded a $4.9 million state Border-to-Border broadband grant to help fund a Federated Telephone Cooperative broadband expansion project in five townships.

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Kandiyohi County was awarded a large Minnesota Border to Border broadband grant to help fund a five-township broadband expansion project through Federated Telephone Cooperative.
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WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County has finally received the news it has been waiting months to hear. The county was awarded a $4.9 million state Border-to-Border broadband grant to help fund a broadband expansion project in Arctander, Dovre, Lake Andrew, Mamre and St. Johns townships.

"We are so excited. This is years in the making," said Sarah Swedburg, business development manager for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

Professional portrait of Sarah Swedburg, business development manager for the Kandiyohi County and city of Willmar Economic Development Commission
Sarah Swedburg
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The project with Federated Telephone Company will bring high-speed fiber broadband to 343 unserved and 302 underserved properties in the five townships. Once the project is completed, those households, businesses and institutions will have access to symmetrical broadband speeds over the state minimum standards of 100 megabits download and 20 megabits upload.

“From day one, I have been a strong supporter of increased broadband funding for communities in Greater Minnesota,” said Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, in a news release announcing the grant award. “Improved internet access means more opportunities for families, businesses, and students around the state. In 2022, it is critically important that Minnesotans can enjoy a fast and stable internet connection no matter where they live. Today’s news is an important step in making that a reality, including here in Kandiyohi County.”

More Broadband:
A survey on broadband internet access in three Kandiyohi County township showed a significant portion of the area is still either underserved or unserved when it comes to broadband internet. The county and city Economic Development Commission has been working for years to increase access.
Connie Schmoll, from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, hopes 2021 is the year a major broadband project is started in underserved areas of the county. She presented information Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board, looking for board support on a potential project that could require financial backing from the county.
The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission's broadband committee continues to work on bringing high-speed broadband to all corners of Kandiyohi County, including applying for very competitive grants to help pay for the projects. This includes a state Border to Border grant and a National Telecommunications and Information Association grant. The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners also continues its push for broadband, earmarking more American Rescue Plan dollars for a project.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith came to Willmar Friday to join a group of county and township leaders, along with representatives from several telecom companies, to discuss broadband access within Kandiyohi County. There are several broadband projects in the works, with funding coming from a variety of sources, including the American Rescue Plan and potential state and federal grants.

The total project cost is estimated at $10 million. The grant will cover half the cost. Federated Telephone has pledged to pay 25% of the total project cost, while Kandiyohi County has dedicated $1.3 million in American Rescue Act Plan dollars. The remainder will be picked up by the townships, Swedburg said.

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Broadband expansion has been a priority of the county and the EDC for years. The EDC staff and its Broadband and Advanced Technology Committee, Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, former EDC staffer Connie Schmoll and the various townships and cities have put in months of work to bring broadband expansion projects to the county.

“I give a lot of credit to the Kandiyohi Broadband Task Force and their continued work on finding the best ways to expand this critical service to our county. Their leadership on this has been critical," Baker said in the release.

Dave Baker.jpg
Dave Baker

Next steps include obtaining all property owners' permissions and other due diligence done this winter so once the construction season starts, the work can start, Swedburg said. Supply chain issues plus all the other broadband projects going on could cause some delays and the project could take two construction seasons to complete.

"We are excited to have a strong partner like Federated by our side and making this possible," Swedburg said.

Sixty-one broadband expansion projects across the state received a combined $99.6 million in grants from the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program.

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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