Minburn Communications learned Tuesday that it landed three of the 39 grants awarded for broadband infrastructure around Iowa as part of the state’s $97.5 million Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program.
The Iowa governor and Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) announced the awardees Tuesday. Some 178 applicants requested nearly $300 million, and Minburn Communications was awarded full funding of one application and partial funding of two more, a total of about $845,000.
“We are thrilled to be three of those 39 recipients,” said Minburn Communications CEO Debra Lucht. “Thanks to Gov. Reynolds’ commitment to the Empower Rural Iowa initiative, the Broadband Grant Program enables us to help expand rural broadband in Dallas County.”
Minburn Communications submitted two challenge applications and three grant applications and learned on Tuesday, September 15 that the OCIO awarded full funding for one application and partial funding for the other two. A total of 178 applications were submitted of which thirty-nine were awarded funding.
The application receiving full funding — amounting to $793,410.60 — will be used to broadband infrastructure in the area defined as Dallas Center South. In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defined broadband, or fast internet, as internet with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps, sometimes called a 25/3 connection. The majority of consumers in the Dallas Center South area do not have access to a 25/3 network connection.
“We are very pleased to have been awarded full grant request of $793,410.60 for Dallas Center South,” Lucht said. “During our ‘Rally for Fund Funds’ campaign, several people in the Dallas Center community helped support our application by validating their lack of reliable internet. We appreciate their contribution to help secure funding to bring a fiber network to this area.”
Minburn Communications also received partial funding to build fiber network connections in the Perry Rural area and the Adel North/Dallas Center North area. The Perry Rural request was awarded $23,625.10, and the Adel North/Dallas Center North request was awarded $28,755.64.
These geographical areas were deemed not eligible for full grant funding because service providers in both areas claimed they deliver a 100/50 connection to more than 10% of the users in the area, making the areas ineligible for grant funding. Lucht said that Minburn Communications challenged the OCIO map designation for these areas and also submitted plans for bringing fiber connectivity to internet users in both areas.
“While we are pleased to receive a small portion of our request, we still know there are consumers who do not have access to a future-ready, reliable internet connection,” she said. “Minburn Communications has 10 days to appeal the decision and, following the expiration of the 10-day appeal period, the OCIO will submit the final grant agreement to the successful applicants for execution. The applicants will then have 10 working days to accept or deny the project awards.”
Lucht said her company will use the time to make a decision about the partial awards.
“We are working with our consultants to determine the next course of action,” she said. “We are one of many steps into the process of determining our network expansion plans. In the Dallas Center South area, we plan to fine tune our cost studies and fiber build proposals for consideration by our board of directors. We will also take into consideration the obstacles and opportunities presented by the available award for the Perry Rural and Adel North/Dallas Center North areas.”
The Minburn Mutual Telephone Co. was founded Jan. 3, 1903, by local businessmen and farmers in and around Minburn. Bouton and Woodward were included in the Minburn directory in 1957. For more than 100 years, the company has kept pace with advancing technology and with the evolving communications needs of their customers.