WCTA Awarded Broadband Grant

Center, Lt. Governor Smith pictured with representatives of Greater Minnesota companies awarded grants; far left, Chad Bullock, CEO/GM and Geri Salmela, Marketing Director of WCTACenter, Lt. Governor Smith pictured with representatives of Greater Minnesota companies awarded grants;
far left, Chad Bullock, CEO/GM and Geri Salmela, Marketing Director of WCTA

West Central Telephone Association (WCTA) was awarded a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. WCTA was awarded $189,525 for a project that will expand their fiber optic infrastructure along the Hwy 71 North corridor. The total amount of grants awarded was just under $11 million to 15 entities investing in unserved or underserved regions.  

Friday, November 20th at the Blandin Foundation’s 12th annual statewide broadband conference, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith announced that WCTA was among the recipients awarded funds from the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program. WCTA applied for the grant to expand their fiber optic infrastructure into adjacent rural areas along the Highway 71 corridor north of Wadena. Once complete, WCTA will provide gigabit broadband services to residents, businesses and anchor institutions that are currently considered unserved or underserved.

The state defines an unserved area as an area of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the FCC threshold of 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload. An underserved area is an area of Minnesota in which households or businesses do receive service above the FCC threshold but lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the state broadband goals of ten to 20 megabits per second download and five to ten megabits per second upload.

Chad Bullock, the CEO of WCTA said, “We are pleased to be named as one of the grant recipients. Our neighbors in rural Wadena have asked WCTA to bring broadband services to them. This grant will offset our project costs enough to make gigabit broadband in rural Wadena a reality.”

The project was designed to provide a robust fiber backbone that can accommodate a much larger project area over time. WCTA submitted the grant application in partnership with the National Joint Powers Alliance, the West Central Economic Development Alliance and Region Five Development Commission. They also had extensive community support from local public and private sector organizations and businesses, and local citizens.

Construction could begin as early as spring of 2016, although the specific details have not been finalized.