Border-to-Border Grant Awarded to Paul Bunyan Communications Co-op

The state of Minnesota has awarded Paul Bunyan Communications the Border-to-Border Broadband grant to expand fiber optic services to three different counties.

The expansion will cost $1.78 million, with Paul Bunyan Communications contributing $980,990, and the state Border-to-Border grant covering $802,620. The plan should be finalized by the spring and construction will start this summer. Paul Bunyan Communications projects the build-out will be completed by June 2020.

Rural Minnesota Gets Better Connected

The Border-to-Border Fund was created by the Minnesota state legislature back in 2014. The goal is to help make the financial case for providers to invest in building infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Many underserved areas of the state have included the Border-to-Border grants in their planning process and as a pivotal part of their expansion models. The financial boon from the state has proved successful for many communities. RS Fiber Cooperative has been successfully connecting towns and rural areas in Sibley and Renville County, and they recently announced a gigabit residential connection at no additional cost for subscribers. It’s also attracting investment and industry, explained Mark Erickson in a recent report, citing the forthcoming medical school being built in Gaylord:

"We have that opportunity because of the Fiber-to-the-Home network. Without it, no medical school."

Cooperative Success 

Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative has already made massive strides in providing high-speed access to large swaths of northern Minnesota. Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone reaches more than 29,400 locations, covering more than 5,000 square miles in Beltrami County, also reaching areas of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.

The ever-growing network has also expanded services to the Red Lake Nation Native American community, one of the lesser-served demographics when it comes to high-speed rural access.

In 2015, Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative was awarded the Leading Lights National Award for Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service. SEO and general manager Gary Johnson explained their approach,

"It is one of the first gigabit network initiatives that will encompass a large rural area and I think that is significant."

The Paul Bunyan Communications’ remarkable success and expansion will surge forward with the acceptance of the Border-to-Border Grant. In the next two years, the construction of the expanded network will pass through a minimum of 830 locations.

This year, the Border-to-Border Broadband Fund granted a total of $26 million for 39 broadband infrastructure projects. It will ultimately provide an estimated 9,973 households, 2,169 businesses, and 60 community institutions across the state with reliable, high-speed access. A full list of awardees can be found here at the Minnesota Department of Eomployment and Economic Development website.