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Minnesota awards state broadband grant to Federated Rural Electric/Broadband to serve rural Jackson County

by | Jul 6, 2023 | Member Co-op News | 0 comments

(Jackson, MN) — Yesterday the Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Office of Broadband Development notified Federated Rural Electric/Broadband, Jackson, of a $7 million grant to serve rural Jackson County.

“We’re ecstatic about the opportunity to serve rural Jackson County with fiber to the premises, delivering one gigabyte per second upload and down,” stated Scott Reimer, Federated’s general manager. “This grant features a two-year time frame. We started the engineering and layout for the grant application. We will soon start procuring materials and look for a contractor.”

The area covered by the grant is northwestern Jackson County, covering the rural areas of Heron Lake and Okabena. In addition, areas south, east and southwest of Lakefield are underserved or unserved as well. The project involves 480 households, businesses and farms, installing 251 miles of fiber. The townships covered are: LaCrosse, Wiemer, Western Heron Lake, Alba, Rost, Hunter, Sioux Valley, Minneota and Ewington. See the attached map.

The project’s total cost is estimated at $10 million with Jackson County partnering and providing a $500,000 match. Federated will secure long-term loans for the balance, similar to what it does for financing its electric distribution line system.

Only 61.98 percent of Jackson County residents have access to 100/200 Mbps speeds, which ranks 55th out of 87 Minnesota Counties. “The quality of life will be much improved allowing telecommuting, telehealth, distance learning, plus help farmers and rural businesses be competitive,” Reimer added. “In addition, rural members will have improved entertainment opportunities, better access to financial management and social media. This is a great economic development tool for our area!”

The State of Minnesota announced grants totaling $66,869,009 to 30 projects in the eighth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program and the pilot round of the Low-Density Broadband Grant program. Federated was funded under the low-density program.

Federated has been involved in the internet business since 2005 offering first WildBlue and then Exede satellite internet to the area. Federated acquired Back 40 Wireless January 1, 2022, renaming it Federated Broadband. Federated Broadband now serves nearly 1,400 customers in Jackson and Martin Counties with line-of-sight internet and streaming TV service, plus about 50 City of Ceylon fiber subscribers.