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DEED announces $50 million round of broadband expansion funding

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After two rounds of historic investments over the past year, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today launched its latest effort to provide high-speed broadband to Minnesota homes and businesses that need it. 

“Broadband is an absolute necessity for Minnesotans looking to connect online with employers, customers, schools, doctors, government services, social networks – frankly, anything at all,” said DEED Commissioner Matt Varilek. “Our broadband grant programs continue to deliver this economic and social imperative to more Minnesota homes and businesses every year. We’re excited to launch another round of high-impact grants today.” 

DEED has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to award $50 million in broadband grants to providers across the state. 

As part of the new grant round, $30 million will go to DEED’s flagship Border-to-Border Broadband Program, through which broadband provider grantees are reimbursed for up to half the eligible cost of deploying broadband infrastructure, with funding for a single project capped at $10 million.  

Another $20 million will be for the newly permanent Low Population Density Program which offers grants to providers building broadband service to areas of Minnesota with particularly low population densities and high broadband deployment costs. Grants can be worth up to $10 million and cover up to 75% the total cost of a project.  

All projects must offer speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. 

DEED has invested $167 million across two grant rounds since December 2022 to connect more than 46,000 homes and businesses to high-speed broadband. Since the inception of the Border-to-Border Broadband Program in 2014, DEED had provided nearly $297 million in grants to connect more than 103,000 homes and businesses around Minnesota to broadband internet. 

 “High-impact investments like those we’re launching today continue the acceleration of DEED’s broadband grantmaking,” said DEED Office of Broadband Development Executive Director Bree Maki. “Programs like Border-to-Border and Low Population Density help us pursue our goal of offering high-speed broadband to everyone.” 

Today’s grants are one component of a wider broadband deployment effort. Federal officials recently awarded Minnesota $652 million in federal funding through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (or BEAD) Program to expand broadband to the most unserved and underserved Minnesotans. Additionally, DEED’s Office of Broadband Development is finalizing the state’s Digital Opportunity Plan, designed to reduce gaps in broadband access, digital technology ownership and digital skills, using an upcoming grant from the federal government. Funding for both programs is due to arrive in Minnesota in the years ahead.  

In addition to the $50 million open for grants today, DEED will launch another $50 million grant round in 2024 to fund even more broadband projects.

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