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Federal Fund Helps Rural Minnesota Broadband Effort

The Connect America Fund is giving subsidies to Internet providers in Minnesota so that ratepayers do not see an increase for extending service to high-cost areas in the state.

(TNS) — Frontier Communications Corp. accepted $283 million from the Federal Communications Commission to extend broadband Internet access to 46,910 homes and businesses in rural Minnesota, the FCC announced Tuesday.

This includes 131 in Blue Earth, 87 in Brown, 268 in Faribault, 1,748 in Le Sueur, 2,067 in Martin, 1,039 in Sibley, 665 in Waseca and 353 in Watonwan counties.

Frontier of Stamford, Conn., accepted the $283 million in federal support through the Connect America Fund. The funding will help the company install broadband to more than 650,000 rural locations throughout its 28-state service area. The fund gives annual service subsidies to the Internet providers so that ratepayers do not see an increase for extending service to high-cost areas.

The federal government funding "is critical next step in delivering broadband service — and the major economic benefits associated with it — to rural America," said Dan McCarthy, Frontier Communications' president and CEO, in a written statement.

The broadband networks Frontier will install will have speeds of at least 10 megabits per second for downloads and 1 megabits per second for uploads.

“The Connect America Fund will enable Frontier to expand robust broadband in its rural service areas, benefiting its customers and their communities,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a news release. “This is a major step forward in the FCC’s efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to modern broadband and the opportunities it provides, no matter where they live.”

In late 2011, the FCC modernized the program to support networks capable of providing broadband and voice services, and created the Connect America Fund.

The fund gave $438 million in one phase to expand broadband to more than 637,000 homes and businesses, including $133 million to Frontier. The FCC fund is now giving funding in a second phase, when more than $10 billion will be provided. Frontier and other providers must have installed the service to 40 percent of the locations indicated by the end of 2017, 60 percent by the end of 2018 and completion by the end of 2020.

The FCC, through its Universal Service Fund, allocates $4.5 billion each year to support voice- and broadband-capable network development in rural and high-cost areas.

©2015 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.