Broadband Grant Program

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program funds the build-out of infrastructure to promote the expansion of broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved.

Overview

During the 2015 special session, the legislature included $10,588,000 in funds for the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program. 

The application period is now open to apply for these grants to expand broadband service in unserved and underserved regions throughout Minnesota. The grants can provide up to 50 percent of project development costs. The maximum grant amount is $5 million. See the Application Process tab on how to apply. 

After the application deadline of September 15, 2015 has passed, information on applications submitted will be posted and there will be an opportunity to challenge whether a proposed project includes areas that should not be considered unserved or underserved. See the Challenge Process tab for more information.

Watch this space for updates and for FAQs regarding the application process or other related questions. 

If you would like to be added to our email list for updates, sign-up at our Contact Us webpage. 

Eligibility

ELIGIBLE AREAS

Broadband development projects located in unserved or underserved areas are eligible for the Border to Border Broadband Development Grants. An unserved area is an area of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the 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 above the FCC threshold but lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the state broadband goals of ten to 20 megabits per second download and five to ten megabits per second upload.

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS

Eligible applicants for this program are an incorporated business or partnership, a political subdivision, an Indian tribe, a Minnesota nonprofit organization organized under chapter 317A, a Minnesota cooperative association organized under chapter 308A or 308B, or a Minnesota limited liability corporation organized under chapter 322B for the purpose of expanding broadband access.

ELIGIBLE PROGRAM COSTS

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program can pay up to 50 percent of the infrastructure deployment costs for a qualifying project. “Broadband deployment costs” or “costs” means the cost of the acquisition and installation of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure that support broadband service scalable to speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and 100 megabits per second upload.

Last mile infrastructure is broadband infrastructure that serves as the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s on-premise telecommunications equipment. Middle mile infrastructure is broadband infrastructure that links a broadband service provider’s core network infrastructure to last-mile infrastructure. 

Construction of broadband infrastructure may include any of the following: project planning; obtaining construction permits; construction of facilities, including construction of both “middle mile” and “last mile” infrastructure; equipment; and installation and testing of the broadband service.

Application Process

The grant application and criteria are similar to the 2014 program which awarded $19.4 million in grants across the state in early 2015. 

Completed applications and supporting documentation (3 paper copies and one electronic copy in MS Word format on a USB drive) must be received by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development by 4:00 p.m. on September 15, 2015 to be considered for funding. 

Funding decisions will be made before the end of 2015.

Check out the FAQs tab for questions we receive, and our answers, about the application process. 

 

FAQs

Questions we receive about the FY16 program/funding will be posted here soon after we receive them, along with our answers.

Resources

Resources for Prevailing Wage and Environmental Reviews

Prevailing Wage Compliance

Minnesota prevailing wage rates apply to any state broadband grant over $200,000 and these wage rates must be figured into your project budget. Find the rates for your county.

For assistance in classifying type of labor, complete a Classification Clarification Request form from the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry. If you have other questions regarding prevailing wage, contact that agency's Senior Labor Investigator Michael Dombross.

State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

Contact SHPO for information on reviews prior to construction for possible disturbances of historic, archaeological sites. There's also information such as hiring an archaeologist to do an archaeological assessment of the project, especially those that are going through multiple townships/counties. This would include a records search for existing archaeological sites, recommendations for surveying areas along the route (if any) and recommendations on avoiding the sites that have been identified “historic."

Review for Natural Heritage Site Proximity

This might include rare plant species, animals, and protected areas, for example. For natural heritage sites, check with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for possible proximity to rare natural/plant/species areas:

Challenge Process

2015 Infrastructure Grant Challenge Process

The applications for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program are due by 4:00 p.m. on September 15, 2015. In the application, a written description and a map of each proposed project area must be included. Upon the close of the application period, and no later than September 18, 2015, the Office of Broadband Development will post to its website (and announce that the posting has been made via an email blast), a list of all applicants that have filed for the grant program, the project name, and the description (written and map depiction) of each proposed project.

Once posted, existing broadband providers can review the project areas and determine whether they believe an area’s eligibility for the grant program should be challenged because they already provide wireline broadband service within any of the project areas. A provider can either challenge that an applicant’s proposed project includes areas that are already served at 10Mbps down and 5 Mbps upload and is therefore served and ineligible for grant funding; or that a proposed project includes areas that are already served at 25Mbps down and 3Mbps upload and should be re-classified as underserved if the applicant has described the area as unserved.

Existing providers will have until Friday, October 9, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. to file any challenges with the Office of Broadband Development. A challenge should be submitted in writing to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Office of Broadband Development, 1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101. A separate challenge must be filed for each project that is being challenged.

Challenges will only be considered from providers that submitted updated broadband mapping data to Connected Nation in the spring 2015 data collection period.

Each written challenge should include the name of the challenger, the name of the project’s applicant, the project name, and a written description and map of the areas that are being challenged as already served and/or that should be reclassified as underserved. If a challenge to a specific project includes both that an area(s) within the proposed project is already served at 10 Mbps down and 5 Mbps upload and that other area(s) are already served at 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps upload and should be reclassified as underserved, the challenge should clearly delineate both areas/locations in the written description and map.

Upon receipt of any challenges, the Office of Broadband Development will review the documentation submitted with the application and by the challenger, the available maps and verification work done by the state’s designated mapping entity, and engage in discussions as necessary with the applicant and challenger. The Office will then determine the appropriate classification (served, underserved, unserved) of challenged locations within a proposed project area. Any challenge process will be conducted concurrently with the application review and evaluation process.

2014 Grantees

Funded Project Map 1.png See a map of grant awards . See a list of grant applicants. 

Grant Recipients

Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area

Award: $536,702. Total project cost: $1.07 million. Impact: Service to 217 unserved premises.

CenturyLink Foley, Benton County–Balkan Township

Award: $382,883. Total project cost: $995,977. Impact: Service to 162 unserved households, 10 businesses, several community facilities.

Consolidated Telephone Cooperative, Region 5 Virtual Highway Project

Award: $2 million. Total project cost: $4.22 million. Impact: Service to 247 unserved and 90 underserved premises in Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties.

Dunnell Telephone Co., City of Dunnell, Martin County

Award: $625,000. Total project cost: $1.49 million. Impact: service to 174 unserved households in Dunnell in Martin County.

Federated Telephone Cooperative, Big Stone County

Award: $3.92 million. Total project cost: $7.92 million. Impact: Service to 1,072 unserved premises in the communities of Barry, Beardsley and Johnson, and rural parts of Big Stone County.

Halstad Telephone Co., Halstad Tract MN 11902500 FTTH

Award: $1.65 million. Total project cost: $3.3 million. Impact: Service to 249 unserved locations in Polk County.

Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative (ITC), Hendricks Town FTTP

Award: $700,000. Total project cost: $1.87 million. Impact: Service to 377 homes and farms, 57 businesses and eight community institutions, all currently underserved.

Mediacom, Pintar Road

Award: $137,848. Total project cost: $275,697. Impact: Service to 122 unserved homes and businesses on the southwest edge of the city limits of Hibbing.

Northeast Service Cooperative – Frontier Communications Corp., Border to Border Phase I

Award: $1.96 million. Total project cost: $4.35 million. Impact: Service to 877 homes and businesses in St. Louis County, including areas in and around Crane Lake, Alborn, Meadowlands, Brookston, Forbes, Kelsey, Soudan, Kabetogama, Ely and Tower.

Otter Tail Telcom, Swan Lake West

Award: $438,937. Total project cost: $877,874. Impact: Service to 110 unserved locations near Swan Lake, on the outskirts of Fergus Falls.

Otter Tail Telcom, Stuart Lake

Award: $105,364. Total project cost: $210,729. Impact: service to 47 unserved locations near Stuart Lake, just north of State Highway 210 and east of Fergus Falls.

Otter Tail Telcom, 245th

Award: $108,553. Total project cost: $217,105. Impact: service to 39 unserved locations.

Palmer Wireless, Becker Industrial Park

Award: $151,934. Total project cost: $303,870. Impact: service to 21 underserved businesses in the Becker Industrial Park and 12 vacant city-owned lots covering 70 acres.

Rock County Broadband Alliance (RCBA), FTTP Project

Award: $5 million. Total project cost: $12.85 million. Impact: service to 1,261 homes and farms, 68 businesses, and 21 community institutions in Rock County.

R-S Fiber Cooperative, FTTH Project

Award: $1 million. Total project cost: $3.32 million. Impact: Service to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville counties. The project is part of a larger cooperative project estimated at $38.46 million that will upgrade broadband services to several thousand locations in the region.

Sjoberg Cable, Broadband Grant Proposal

Award: $261,575. Total project cost: $523,150. Impact: Services to 107 unserved and 49 underserved homes, farms and businesses in five areas in Roseau County near Roseau, Warroad and Salol.

Wikstrom Telephone, Kittson, Marshall, Roseau Broadband Extension

Award: $425,000. Total project cost: $943,827. Impact: Service to 73 unserved and 43 underserved homes in Kittson, Marshall and Roseau counties.