Broadband internet

The Hutchinson area received a share of $20.6 million the Minnesota Legislature dedicated to improve broadband across the state.

The local grant, which creates a partnership between Nuvera Communications and the state, is for $169,369, with a project cost of $423,423 and a $254,054 local match. As part of the ongoing Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program — which was created in 2014 and most recently funded for 2020 and 2021 — the project is meant to bring service levels to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, according to a state press release. These speeds exceed the state’s 2022 and 2026 speed goals. The partnership, which is described as a “last-mile project,” aims to serve 42 unserved and five underserved locations in the Hutchinson area of McLeod County.

“While most people have come to expect reliable and affordable internet connections, many places in our state remain at a disadvantage in that regard,” Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, said in a statement. “The increased reliance upon internet services during the COVID-19 pandemic only underscores the need to smooth out rough patches and complete last-mile projects in our state. The Legislature has done well to fund the Border-to-Border program, and it is good to see local awards have been earned.”

Nearby Union Grove Township in Meeker County is also set to benefit from the grant program. A partnership with Meeker Cooperative aims to improve speed levels to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, which also meets or exceeds Minnesota’s 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The construction of a fiber-to-the-premise high-speed broadband network is meant to provide businesses and farms in the area access to e-learning, telemedicine, precision agriculture tools and other services.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development broadband director Angie Dickison said in a recent digital press conference the 39 approved projects would provide “fast, reliable internet access for over 6,900 businesses and homes.”

DEED commissioner Steve Grove said there was a “huge” demand for the program.

“Gov. (Tim) Walz announced an additional $50 million proposal to expand and accelerate this grant program,” Grove said.