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February 26, 2021

2/12/2021 2:22:00 PM
Franconia, Chisago Lake townships not broadband state grant finalists

Chisago Lake Township and Franconia Township were not on the list of grantees for the much anticipated state 2021 broadband project financial assistance.  

The two local governments applied jointly in 2020 for Internet enhancement monies.  The closest funding awarded  this year,  anywhere near Chisago county,  went to Scandia and its internet partner Midco.  Scandia is doing a “last mile” of enhanced Internet buildout and is contributing $355,000.  Their state funding is $78,824.   

In Chisago County— Fish Lake and Nessel Townships have been recipients of earlier state broadband aid.

Chisago Lake and Franconia township boards applied in partnership with CTC, a cooperative.  The boards were told, in part, that the application was rejected due to the Midcontinent Communications’ participation in another broadband program through the FCC.  Midco operates in the south end of Chisago County.

Township Supervisor Sherry Stirling said Windstream and Midco won contracts in a reverse auction held by the FCC.  Reverse auction seeks the lowest cost program proposal to provide broadband enhancements in underserved areas.  Midco promised to deliver enhanced broadband speed and service to the general Franconia and Chisago Lake areas, where it is already partially providing internet. Speeds will be one gigabyte;  according to information on the FCC website about the Midco and Windstream FCC applications.  The companies have until June to submit a “plan” and there’s a six year window to implement the promised service.

Meantime— the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development went with multiple other requests for funding and let Midco and Windstream pursue the federal program.
DEED released names and descriptions of 39 projects getting $20.6 million in Border to Border Broadband funding in 2022, stating it had 64 applications for this round.
Governor Walz seeks to continue Minnesota’s on-going “border to border’ broadband aid line item in the coming proposed budget boosting it by $10 million to $50 million.  

The stated goal is that all Minnesotans have access to at least one provider by 2026.  The Border to Border program started six years ago and the DEED news release says 56,000 sites in total have been provided broadband.

Chisago Lake Township Supervisor Stirling said officials are disappointed certainly.   At this time the townships have been advised there’s not much to do but wait and see.

 If the FCC-funded project doesn’t move ahead in Minnesota, the local pair of townships might be back in the que for broadband assistance from the state. Any possible option of using wireless (towers) systems has been rejected, for the Franconia area especially, due to physical impediments in the terrain

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