Update: Broadband/Internet Service to Normanna Township—March 5, 2022
State/Federal funding for broadband projects in our area will likely come from three sources in the 2022 to 2026 timeframe:
- the NTIA, which is now the lead Federal agency for broadband funding (https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/grant-programs)
- the FCC RDOF initiative (https://www.fcc.gov/auction/904/factsheet)
- the State Border-to-Border program (https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/)
A grant proposal for Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) service encompassing portions of Canosia, Gnesen, Lakewood, Normanna, and Rice Lake was not awarded by the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure program last Friday. That grant program was extremely competitive; the awards were quite limited in coverage, as expected. The positive news is that our communities have now attracted the attention of at least one reputable broadband provider, a crucial aspect of any broadband funding initiative, and established a relationship with the County that may help in future funding efforts.
The status of the FCC RDOF initiative is unknown currently. The preliminary winner for our area obtained preliminary awards over a significant portion of the country; however, the FCC needs to evaluate the proposals from each preliminary award winner in detail to determine project viability. The FCC is leaving the large awards until the end for approval, and has been reviewing these large projects for over a year without decision.
The State Border-to-Border program plans to offer $35M in 2022; however, the State program has been delayed awaiting release of ARPA funds to the State by the Federal Treasury. Eventually, the State will gain control of significant funding through the NTIA to support State broadband projects. It is unlikely that those funds will have any effect on fiber deployments this year. Bear in mind that the $35M in the State 2022 funding pipeline will do next to nothing to resolve the estimated $1.3B broadband deficiency in Minnesota.
The odds are stacked against the townships for significant fiber deployment in 2022. There are a couple of decent opportunities that Normanna and its partner communities are pursuing, but the funding pipeline is clogged and deployment costs can be expected to increase across the country as funded fiber projects demand supplies and resources.