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Blandin Foundation awards broadband grant to Otter Tail County for feasibility study

Blandin Foundation announced today that it has awarded five grants totaling $149,000 that assist rural Minnesota communities in advancing high-speed Internet access and use in their communities. Otter Tail County will benefit from grant funding that will map existing fiber, towers and broadband-related electronics, provide a market study, determine the best technology path for the county, and conduct a pre-engineering study to determine the cost of future build out.

“From our experience working in over 30 rural communities across the state, we have learned that feasibility studies of this kind can help communities attract the interest and attention of possible provider partners,” said Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation’s director of public policy and engagement.

Currently, only 1.75 percent of Otter Tail County residents have access to broadband speeds that meet the state goal of 100 megabits per second download and 20 megabits per second upload by 2026. The feasibility study will help the community explore a broadband expansion that will better serve residents.

With a population around 57,581 residents, local leaders are looking to the opportunities that come with a broadband-enabled economy to boost economic development and educational attainment.

“Broadband is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” said Nick Leonard, Otter Tail County economic development director. “Today, broadband infrastructure and services are as important as roads and electricity. It is also an economic development tool. Affordable broadband is crucial when it comes to attracting both businesses and residents.”

“It takes planning, persistence and perseverance from local leaders to really bring the promise of broadband home to our rural communities,” said Blandin Foundation president and CEO Dr. Kathleen Annette. “We’re honored to stand with Otter Tail County as they plan for their broadband-enabled future.”