Get ready for faster, more reliable internet service in the Douglas County area.

State grants totaling more than $4.3 million are on the way for six broadband projects that will help unserved or underserved areas in Douglas, Todd and Pope counties.

The projects are included in 39 statewide grants of $20.6 million for 39 projects announced by Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, Jan. 28. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will award the grants through the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program.

State grant dollars will be matched by $33,695,279 in local funds, for a total investment in broadband infrastructure of $54,340,704.

Here are the local projects that were approved:

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  • Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association was awarded a grant of $1,551,370 for the Douglas County/County Road 34 project.

The project will serve 71 unserved and 544 underserved locations in Ida and Carlos townships. Gardonville will improve unserved/underserved levels to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the state’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals. This fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) project will provide households, businesses and farms with high speeds needed to work, to learn, to play, and to connect, according to DEED.

The total project cost is $3,447,488. The local match is $1,896,118.

  • Runestone Telecom Association will receive a grant of $1,463,259 for a project in Villard.

The project will serve 496 unserved households, 36 unserved businesses, nine unserved farms, and five unserved community anchor institutions in northeast Pope County. Runestone Telecom will bring broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and up to 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the state’s 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. This fiber-to-the-home project will increase economic development and facilitate telemedicine and distance education options not only in the era of COVID-19, but beyond, according to DEED.

Total project cost is $4,180,741. The local match is $2,717,482.

  • Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association will receive $692,929 for the Hazel Hill Road project in Douglas County.

The project will serve 212 unserved households, 79 unserved businesses and one unserved farm in Alexandria Township in Douglas County. Gardonville will provide speeds of 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the State’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals. It will provide customers with adequate speeds to perform daily activities, along with improving their functionality, will enhance the quality of life in this community for years to come, according to DEED.

The total project cost is $1,732,322. The local match is $1,039,393.

  • Arvig (Tekstar Communications, Inc.) was awarded $486,458 for the Lake Osakis, Sauk Lake and Smith Lake project.

It will upgrade about 230 unserved and 39 underserved locations in Todd and Douglas counties. Arvig will improve broadband levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The area served will realize improved quality of life, including opportunities for business, education, health care, security, and telecommuting options, according to DEED.

The total project cost is $1,389,880. The local match is $903,422.

  • Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association will receive a grant of $90,251 for the Town Hall Road project.

This project will serve 46 unserved and three underserved locations in LaGrand Township in Douglas County, including home-based businesses and households with telecommuters. Gardonville will improve unserved/underserved levels to 1G per second download and 1G per second upload, exceeding the state’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals. This fiber-to-the-premise project will provide the most dependable, reliable technology today, enhancing lives by keeping families and communities connected, according to DEED.

Total project cost is $225,628. Local match is $135,377.

  • Charter Communications (Spectrum) will receive a grant of $24,450 for the West Lake Carlos project.

This will serve about 42 unserved households on the west side of Lake Carlos in Douglas County. Charter Communications will provide broadband service levels up to 940 Mbps download and 35 Mbps upload, exceeding the state’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals and providing quality of life enhancements for the residents of the project area, according to DEED.

The total project cost is $81,661. The local match is $57,211.

In a news release, Walz said the grants will make a big difference in rural Minnesota.

“The pandemic this past year has made it crystal clear that fast, reliable broadband access is critical for people living in Greater Minnesota – for everything from education and health care to business operations and telecommuting,” said Walz. “These grants continue this vitally important work toward our goal of ensuring that every Minnesotan has high-speed internet access by 2022.”

“Connection is foundational for communities to thrive. These grants will go to help Minnesotans get critical access to broadband,” added Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “Now more than ever, we need to make sure Minnesotans have access to high-quality broadband to help our communities thrive, businesses survive, and students learn.”

“As we look to promoting economic recovery from the pandemic, these grants help ensure that every Minnesotan can participate in building back our state’s economy even stronger,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We want to be a model state for innovation – and having reliable, high-speed internet access is fundamental to that goal.”

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which is in its sixth year, is primarily targeted towards communities in Greater Minnesota, where broadband infrastructure is not as likely to be at a level that is needed to support economic equity. A map of projects awarded grants in 2021 is posted on DEED’s website.

The State of Minnesota has set a goal for universal access and high-speed internet so that by no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second.

By no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes are expected to have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

The grants announced Jan. 28 bring the number of homes and businesses provided broadband access through the grant program since 2014 to a total of over 56,800.