West Central Telephone Awarded Broadband Grant

Plans underway to expand broadband service

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 $718,850 for a project that will expand their fiber optic infrastructure into portions of Otter Tail and Wadena Counties. The total amount of grants awarded was $34 million to 42 broadband projects across Greater Minnesota.

Wednesday, January 11th, 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 further expand their fiber optic infrastructure into adjacent rural areas including portions of Bluffton and Blowers Townships in Otter Tail County and also in Wadena County covering portions of Rockwood, Leaf River, North Germany and Wing River Townships, including the community of Bluegrass. Once complete, WCTA will provide gigabit broadband services to residents, businesses and anchor institutions that are currently unserved.

This funding partnership between WCTA and the State of Minnesota will bring fiber into these unserved areas up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit) surpassing the 2026 state speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. The project will bridge the digital divide for government, businesses, residents and students in the area.

Chad Bullock, the CEO of WCTA said, “We are pleased to be named as one of the grant recipients. Our neighbors in these rural areas of Wadena and Otter Tail Counties have had no options for reliable Internet service.  When surveyed, some stated that they didn’t even have basic telephone service.  This grant provides forty-nine percent of our $1.5 million project; we're committed to a $778,755 local match to make gigabit broadband a reality.” 

This project is the second phase of a much larger fiber project as it builds off of last year’s Border to Border grant area. 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 2017, although the specific details have not been finalized.