Paul Bunyan Communications announced that expansion of their fiber optic network will begin this year, after they recently were awarded a Border-to-Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota.
The network will be expanded to parts of southeast Beltrami County in the Pennington and Strawberry Areas of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, with the expansion coming to Pennington in 2020 and Strawberry in 2021.
This project is expected to cost $581,600, with the grant covering over $261,000 and Paul Bunyan Communications investing about $320,000.
“This is a big deal for those who live in the Pennington and Strawberry area. Access to quality broadband service is vital to so many different facets of life including health care, education, business, and recreation,” said Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr.
“I applaud Paul Bunyan Communications and all those involved to secure the necessary funding and continue to expand to provide this essential service to more of our tribal members. We will continue to work with Paul Bunyan to secure additional grant funding to bring broadband to other parts of the reservation that remain without access.”
There are over 280 locations within the Pennington expansion planned for 2020 and those locations can sign up for services at any time.
The cooperative expects to develop the expansion plans for the Strawberry area later this year. The Strawberry area expansion will start in the spring of 2021 and be completed by June 30, 2022.
“Lack of access to quality Internet service creates a lot of difficulties for students, businesses, and residents,” said State 5A Rep. John Persell.
“I’m excited to see both of these projects move forward. All Minnesotans should be able to access fast, reliable internet service and the Border to Border Broadband Grant program is making a big difference in helping to do just that.”