Minnesota Governor Walz and Minnesota DEED Commissioner Grove visit the Arvig Central Office in Melrose, to discuss better broadband for Minnesotans.

Pictured left to right: Mark Neihoff (Central Office Systems Engineer at Arvig), Melrose Mayor Joe Finken, Dave Schornack, (Director of Business Development and Sales at Arvig), MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, Governor Tim Walz, Brett Christiansen (Engineering Manager at Arvig), Mark Schmidt (Central Office Manager at Arvig), Ben Wiechman (Director or IP Strategy and Engineering at Arvig) and Lisa Greene (Director of Marketing and Communications at Arvig).

Border-to-Border Broadband Grant to Arvig improves access for area businesses, residents

The state’s “border to border” technology drive has come into sharp focus locally and in the region. 

In the general Pelican Rapids area, at least 500 users will benefit from high speed internet in the Pelican Lake and Cormorant areas–by 2021, and maybe sooner. 

“This is great for the Pelican area…and great for all of us,” said Dave Schornack, director of Business Development and Sales for Arvig. “When you get a gigobyte, you can do about anything.  It will really be  a big plus for home businesses…It will be a huge economic driver for the region.” 

The broadband improvements in the Pelican area will provide improved “speed” in several lakes area neighborhoods that weren’t initially upgraded because of the high cost of installation.

“These areas are bits and pieces that were adjacent to our service areas,” said Shornack, noting that the “Border-to-Border” funds enabled Arvig to expand. 

“The (state) was pushing hard to develop infrastructure throughout the state; especially in a time of a state revenue surplus and low interest rates,” said Schornack.

Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner, Steve Grove, visited  the area recently. 

The delegation traveled to  Melrose,  to discuss the DEED Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.

More than 10,000 users to be  upgraded in rural Minnesota 

Thirty projects across the state are receiving funding to bring high-quality broadband access to underserved and unserved areas of Minnesota providing fast, reliable internet access for more than 10,900 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions.

Arvig received two of the 30 DEED broadband grants. The first grant funds middle and last mile upgrades to approximately 84 unserved and 336 underserved locations in  rural Eden Valley/Stearns County. It also helps fund broadband improvements for part of the Melrose industrial park and the City of Melrose. 

State, Arvig, Otter Tail county partner for $1.2 millions for Pelican-Cormorant area initiative

The grant Arvig received for the Pelican-Cormorant area is $430,780, with a local match of $800,020 from Arvig and Otter Tail County, bringing the total project investment to $1,230,800.  

This will upgrade internet services to approximately 481 unserved locations near Pelican Lake, Lake Ida, Turtle Lake and Big Cormorant Lake in Otter Tail, Becker and Clay counties. 

 “Fast, reliable broadband access is a critical economic development tool that improves quality of life and makes businesses in Greater Minnesota more competitive,” said Governor Walz. “These grants help us get closer to our goal to ensure that every Minnesotan has high-speed internet access by 2022.”

Improvements enable businesses to expand

“Providing the ability to increase the bandwidth (speed) the businesses use allows them to be more nimble and operate more efficiently. The new fiber connection that will be installed also ensures those businesses that they cannot outgrow the broadband service provided,” said Mark Birkholz, Director of Customer Operations and Southern Markets at Arvig. “They can double, triple or even expand ten times their current size and yet the Internet will be beyond what they can consume.” 

“We are committed to continually upgrading our network to provide faster internet speeds to our customers. The DEED Border-to-Border Grants help us make upgrades more quickly and in more areas,” said Schornack.

Arvig’s commitment to bringing broadband to rural Minnesota includes extensive projects over multiple years. In fact, Arvig built more than 360 fiber-route miles in 2019 to improve service for rural Minnesotans and plans to build an additional 470 fiber-route miles in 2020, in addition to the two projects receiving DEED funding. 

Established in 1950, today, Arvig is one of the largest independent broadband and telecommunications providers in the nation. 

Pelican, Cormorant lakes area facts, information on Minn. DEED Border-to-Border technology upgrades 

 • This project is serving four lake areas near Cormorant with all-fiber upgrade builds. 

 • The first is the northwest side around Turtle Lake on the very east side of Clay County. 

• The second is the west side of Big Cormorant Lake in Becker County. 

• The third area is a small portion on the southeast side of Lake Ida in Becker County. 

• The fourth area is in various parts of the south and north sides of Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County. 

• Residential and commercial property owners in the Pelican-Cormorant area can expect to see crews out surveying and staking this spring. The field work will set the stage for permitting and design work.  Most of the construction will likely begin spring of 2021. 

• In total, this project will upgrade approximately 481 locations with fiber services. 

• Most customers in those areas are currently receiving speeds no greater than 25/3 via ADSL, but some could currently be receiving 50/5 if they are close to the node. After the project is complete, all of these customers will be able to receive up to 1 Gig symmetrical speeds via fiber. Arvig  plans to offer the Gig-for-Life promo where customers can get Gig service for $75 a month if they sign up during the promotion.  

• Arvig hopes to start construction either later in 2020 or in the spring of 2021 because Arvig would like to offer the speeds to the customers before the winter of 2021.

• The DEED Border-to-Border grant upgrade services in these areas much more quickly. At the speeds Arvig plans to provide, the state’s speed goals will actually be exceeded.