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Gardonville looks to expand internet access near Carlos and Nelson

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This area encompassing Nelson and neighborhoods east of Lake Geneva is one of three locations north and east of Alexandria where Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association has applied for state funds to install broadband internet.
Josh Pikkaraine
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — There are times when customers at Jills Gas and Grocery in Nelson fill up their tanks and are then told to come back to pay later, as the internet has stopped working and the business can't process credit cards.

"If you don't have cash or check, there's no way to pay," said manager Kathy Solano. "It can hurt pretty bad if the internet goes down."

That could change in a year or to if internet provider Gardonville Telecommunications receives a state Border-to-Border grant to supply broadband internet access to more than 1,100 homes and businesses around Carlos and Nelson. It would provide up to 1 gigabyte download and upload.

Over the past several years, Gardonville has applied for 12 Border-to-Border grants and won seven, said Dave Wolf, the company's general manager and CEO.

"If we are awarded grants in these project areas, we would begin construction in the spring of 2023," Wolf said. "We are already buying material, planning the construction, lining up financing and crossing our fingers."

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The area the company is targeting are northwest of Carlos , on the northeast side of Lake Le Homme Dieu , and around Nelson .

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This area between Lake Le Homme Dieu and Carlos is one of three areas where Gardonville hopes to get state funding to expand broadband internet starting in 2023.
Josh Pikkaraine
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This area between Carlos and Lake Miltona is one of three locations where Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association hopes to receive state grant funding to install broadband internet access.
Josh Pikkaraine

If Gardonville gets the grant, the first homes and businesses would be online by mid-June of 2023, he said. He added that projects of this size can take up to two construction seasons to finish.

Significantly more money is available for this round of grants than in the history of the Border-to-Border program.

Previously, about $20 million per year had been available for that program but this year, that number could reach as much as $95 million because the Legislature raised the amount to $25 million and the state also has about $70 million in federal COVID money aimed at capital projects via the America Rescue Plan Act.

Grants are expected to be awarded sometime this fall.

Reporter Karen Tolkkinen grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a journalism degree in 1994, and was driven by curiosity to work her way around the United States.
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