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ND, Minnesota counties land broadband grants

North Dakota's Morton County and Minnesota's Aitkin County have received a combined $2.8 million to enhance broadband service for some of their residents, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced.

In Morton County, BEK Communications Cooperative has received an $844,000 Community Connect Program grant to "help spark economic and educational opportunities, enhance health care and bolster public safety," USDA says.

USDA will deploy a 49-mile Fiber-to-the Home network to 125 households that currently are underserved.

In Aitkin County, USDA will provide a $1.95 million grant to Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative. The project will create a Fiber to the Premises Network to 235 establishments in parts of the county, including tribal land and facilities of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The project seeks to help with business and economic development, as well as telehealth and educational improvements, USDA says.

A total of $152 million is being invested in 19 projects in 14 states, mostly in rural areas, according to information from USDA.

"Deploying high-speed broadband internet connectivity, or 'e-Connectivity,' in rural America expands access to essential health, educational, social and business opportunities," USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald LaVoy said in a written statement.

A 2017 USDA report identified e-connectivity as a key to improving rural prosperity. To read the report: https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/rural-prosperity-repo....

USDA is making the investments through the Community Connect Grant Program, the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. Investing in telecommunications infrastructure connects people to each other: businesses to customers, farmers to markets, and students to a world of knowledge, USDA says.

More information on USDA rural grants and loans: https://www.rd.usda.gov/.

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