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Starbuck Telephone Receives State Grant with Local Support from Pope County for Final Phase of Broadband Expansion Completing Access in the Entire County

(December 9, 2022)  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has awarded a $4,248,796 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant to Hanson Communications, the parent company of Starbuck Telephone, for completion of Broadband Internet availability to the remaining unserved and underserved areas of Pope County.

Starbuck Telephone, supported in its application by Pope County through investment of the County’s general and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, will soon be able to bring high-speed fiber-to-the-home service to areas of the County that to date have lacked adequate internet options.

“Today, quality high-speed Broadband internet is no longer just a convenience, but it is essential infrastructure in support of business, healthcare, education, and communication for all in our community,” stated Kersten Kappmeyer, Pope County Administrator.  “Broadband access is as critical to our County’s future prosperity as rural electrification was many years ago, and, with this grant, access will be a reality throughout the County.”

Starbuck Telephone’s next phase of its Pope County Fiber to the Home project will serve another 504 underserved locations and 553 unserved locations in the greater Southeast Pope County area. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Pope County, Hanson Communications as Starbuck Telephone will improve unserved and underserved levels to 1 Gbps up and 1 Gbps down on the new fiber network, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Building a fiber to the premises network will improve access to education and healthcare services. It will also increase employment as businesses leverage this new network and telecommuting opportunities become accessible. This network is vital to Pope County’s rural community and economy.

“With the support of this grant, one of Pope County’s own local service providers will assure the availability of true high-speed Broadband service for all who want it in the last portions of our County that have been unserved or underserved to date.” Kappmeyer added.  “The Pope County Board of Commissioners has made this a consistent County priority over many years, taking the initiative to support efforts to complete Broadband access in the community.  Everyone at Pope County is pleased to see this public-private partnership bear more fruit, thereby benefitting Pope County’s residents and further improving our already excellent quality-of-life.”

Previously, Starbuck Telephone had constructed a first phase of Broadband expansion in the central and Lake Minnewaska areas of the County with the support of a $4,996,791 2017 DEED grant.  Most recently, in a second phase, Pope County provided local and ARPA funding in support of a successful proposal from Starbuck telephone for the ongoing 2022-2023 installation of high-speed Broadband fiber in portions of eight townships in Pope County, including previously unserved and underserved parts of Barsness, Chippewa Falls, Gilchrist, Glenwood, Leven, Minnewaska, Reno, and Rolling Forks Townships.  This latest 2022 DEED grant will support the third and final future phase of the Broadband expansion project in the County with Starbuck Telephone.

Statewide, in this latest round of grants, 61 broadband expansion projects around Minnesota will receive $99.6 million in grants from the 2022 Border-to-Border Broadband grant program administered by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development. Provider grantees estimate the funding will extend new high-speed internet connections to more than 33,000 Minnesota homes and businesses in 48 counties. A list of all the grant awards by project can be found below, or on DEED’s website.

A map of the areas to be served in the latest phase of Starbuck Telephone’s project can be found here or viewed below.

For more information on the County-supported Broadband projects pending or broadband service generally in the County, contact the Pope County Information Technology department here or Starbuck Telephone here.