Swift County and Federated Telephone Cooperative (FTC) have received 4.95 million US dollars, which is the highest award in this year’s latest round of funding for the expansion of broadband services in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that Federated and Swift County had been awarded $4.95 million. The project will deliver high-speed Internet service to 600 households, 425 businesses, and 75 community institutions in the county. The project benefits 13 of the county’s 21 townships concentrated on areas just east of the Benson city limits.
The townships in the eastern half of the county that includes in the current phase of network expansion are Kerkhoven, Hayes, Pillsbury, Dublin, Kildare, Camp Lake, Benson, Torning, Cashel, Swenoda, Six Mile Grove, and Clontarf.
There were sections along U.S. Highway 12 between Murdock and Kerkhoven that would be excluded from the project as well as some areas east of Benson between Minnesota Highway 9 and U.S. Highway 12. Much of the western half of the county already has fiber optic cable.
The total project cost is 12.5 million US dollars. Around sixty percent of the project cost, which is around 7.5 million US dollars will be provided to FTC as a loan from Swift County. Swift County’s Board of Commissioners plans to pass a bond issue early in 2016 with the proceeds being loaned to Federated for the project.
FTC had sought the county’s backing because no source of funding exists that has either the capacity to lend the amount of money needed for the project, or that can provide the terms needed to make it doable.
A loan in the private sector would only be for 10 years with refinancing needed after that to pay the balance. DEED only had $10.58 million available to lend this year for its Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program with the maximum grant limited to $5 million – or nearly half the pot available.
There were 44 applications submitted for grants this year seeking 29.06 million US dollars to expand broadband coverage for their areas. Last year, DEED received 40 applications seeking 44.2 million US dollars.
In July, Swift County pledged to bond for $7.5 to $8 million to help FTC expand broadband fiber optic cable to unserved areas in the eastern half of the county.