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Blandin Foundation to provide digital networking support to Sibley County

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – The Blandin Foundation Board of Trustees recently approved a Robust Broadband Network (RBN) feasibility grant of $40,000 to aid the seven cities in Sibley County and one city in Renville County in their mission to create a Fiber To The Home (FTTH) network.


The funding, which will be instrumental in moving the area forward in the digital age, was the result of a competitive application and review process. The Blandin Foundation is committed to supporting programs that enrich the quality of life in rural communities. “Without this grant, it would have been difficult to get the communities to come together,” said Mark Erickson, city administrator-EDA director for the City of Winthrop, the lead organization in the Robust Broadband Networks application.


With a population of over 15,500 in Sibley County, consisting of seven cities – Arlington, Gaylord, Gibbon, Green Isle, Henderson, New Auburn and Winthrop – the number of people served by the grant is significant. The city of Fairfax is included in the project because they are part of the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (GFW) school district. Other sources of funding will come from a matching grant from Sibley County, the Fairfax EDA and possibly Renville County.


“Rural communities facing incremental population decline and shrinking revenues are often too cautious to risk scarce dollars on a study examining the feasibility of new technology. The grant opportunity provided by the Blandin Foundation not only lends credence to the message that technology can make rural communities better prepared for the future it also makes the undertaking affordable,” said Erickson.


The application of a Robust Broadband Networks Feasibility study to provide a voice, video and data network within and between the cities, and the possible construction of a FTTH network is in progress. Selection of the firm that will conduct the feasibility study is underway and will be announced yet this month.


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