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Douglas County considers guidelines for broadband grants

Towns and villages would be eligible for matching funds to invest in projects that deliver 100 Mbps symmetrical service in Douglas County.

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SUPERIOR — Douglas County is considering the guidelines that will allow towns and villages to tap county resources to help pay for broadband projects in rural communities.

Broadband grant program OK'd, heads to Douglas County Board

The county allocated $500,000 in recovery dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide grants to help pay for the local match required for many state and federal broadband grant programs.

The county program would provide eligible applicants in unserved or underserved areas of Douglas County with grants of up to $50,000 for the local share of grant-funded broadband construction projects that would meet or exceed symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100 megabits per second.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls on it, so if there is a way the committee could approve the draft … that could come to the county board,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert.

The administration committee approved the guidelines Thursday, April 7.

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County participation in the local match would be dollar for dollar up to $50,000. In-kind contributions do not count as a match and applicants must provide an approved resolution to apply for, accept and match grant funds.

On March 24, Gov. Tony Evers announced the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin would be making a decision by summer to award $100 million in broadband expansion grants.

Among those who applied for grant funding in Douglas County are:

  • Astrea Connect for the second phase of a fiber-to-the-premise project that will reach 21 business and 730 residential locations including 22 unserved locations in Gordon and Solon Springs.
  • Brightspeed for a fiber-to-the premise project to reach 72 businesses and 3,017 residential locations in Hawthorne, Poplar, Solon Springs, South Range, Superior and Wentworth.
  • LTD Broadband for a fiber-to-the-premise project to reach 16 business and 243 residences in Poplar.

The county board will consider the guidelines for local matching funds at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in the Government Center Boardroom.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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