Economic Development
Current events & how to get involved:

  • In the 2022 Legislative Session, the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) was directed to create a new program, the Broadband Line Extension Connection Program. The purpose of the program is to award grants for the extension of existing broadband infrastructure to unserved locations. An unserved location is a location that does not have a wired broadband service of at least 25Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. People can report to OBD that a wired broadband service is unavailable at their residence or business by entering information on the online application  or by calling 651-259-7610 and requesting a paper application or by talking to someone at OBD who will complete the application on their behalf.
  • Continue to test your broadband speed to help the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development gather accurate data on internet service and speed. It is these maps and data points that help direct funding to projects.
Background & History:

  • January 2021: Pine County Board of Commissioners identified broadband as one of its top priorities.
  • February 2021: Over 50 community members shared their broadband stories at a special meeting with County Commissioners.
  • March 2021: Pine County was selected to join the Blandin Foundation's "Community Broadband Resources (CBR): Accelerate" program, where 19 community members participated for 15 weeks in gaining broadband leadership education, gathering local broadband information and establishing broadband goals as a community.
  • April 2021: A regional broadband survey and speed test was distributed and conducted, through the CBR: Accelerate program.
  • June 2021: Pine County released a Request for Proposals to hire a broadband consultant to conduct a a feasibility assessment, identify high-priority project and assist the County with establishing a grant program for broadband project using the American Rescue Plan act funding. 
  • July 2021: Pine County was awarded $3.1 million from the Department of Employment & Economic Development's Community Development Block Grant  - Coronavirus program, to expand fiber to roughly 500 homes in the areas around Hinckley, Sandstone, Askov & Finlayson.
  • August 2021: Hometown Fiber was hired as a broadband consultant and Pine County was awarded $25,000 from the Blandin Foundation's Robust Network Feasibility Fund grant program, for this project.
  • September 2021: Pine County was accepted into the Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) program, where a dozen community members have agreed to help steer the community's vision for improving access to technology & broadband, by identifying projects throughout the County which can use Blandin grant funds to execute their community's plans. 
    • As part of the BBC program, Pine County is hosted two sessions to receive public input:
      • Monday November 15 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm - Visioning
      • Monday November 22 from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm - Brainstorming
      • During these online zoom meetings, the community helped shape and pursue technology goals by identifying strengths/gaps and developing projects to move Pine County forwards.
      • Watch the recorded meetings here
    • Then the community was invited to VOTE on their favorite project, by allocating points to one or more projects, the results which can be viewed here, and  these were presented and discussed at a community meeting January 3, 2022 (presentation attached here).
    • From that meeting, two project tracks were formed and grant proposals developed:
      • Innovation - Technology - Knowledge: Going Google in Pine County
      • Broadband:
        • Last Mile Fiber to Kerrick Town Hall
        • Fixed Wireless Equipment & Tower at Chengwatana Town Hall
        • Fixed Wireless Equipment on Tower near WCMP
  • January 2022: Hometown Fiber presented to the County Board on their preliminary broadband assessment results, view the recording here (forward to 19 minutes mark) and slide deck here.
  • March 2022: BIG NEWS!
    • Blandin awards Pine County $75,000 to work on the BBC projects above, read the news release here.
    • Pine County was awarded $5,576,250 of federal funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill, read the news release here.
    • To date, Pine County has secured nearly $8.4 million to improve broadband in Pine County since identifying broadband as a top priority in January 2021.
  • May 2022: Pine County Board approves its Broadband Grant Program, allocating $600,000 of its $750,000 broadband allotment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for providers who can demonstrate a clear and achievable plan to deliver high-speed, reliable and affordable broadband communication services in one or more un/underserved area(s) in Pine County.
    • View the full application and requirements here: Pine County ARPA Broadband Grant Program
    • May 10, 2022: Deadline to request application assistance and reasonable accommodations.
    • May 24, 2022: Deadline for submitting questions and request for clarification.
    • June 17, 2022: Applications due from applicants. Applications are public information.
    • June 24, 2022: Deadline for submitting an objection to a grant application.
    • July 1, 2022: Deadline for submitting a response to an objection
    • Applications will be reviewed by the broadband subcommittee and the committee's recommendations will be presented to the County Board for award consideration. 
  • July 2022: Pine County Board approves the following ARPA Broadband Grant awards:
    • $300,000 to East Central Energy (East Central Energy Regional Broadband Project - total project cost $67M)
    • $200,000 to Starwire Technologies (City of Rock Creek -total project cost $4.3M)
    • $75,000 to Savage Communications (Partridge Township Broadband Expansion - total project cost $1.5M)
    • $25,000 to Midcontinent Communications (Midco Cross Lake Trail - total project cost $67k)
  • December 2022: More BIG NEWS!
    • Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development's Office of Broadband Development awards East Central Energy $4,750,000 for their Pine South project, which according to the project summary will serve approximately 2,082 households, 122 businesses, 329 farms and 2 community anchor institutions currently unserved and underserved in Pine and Kanabec Counties of Minnesota. With funding support from local partners: Kanbec County, Arthur, Brunswick, Pine City, Royalton, and Pine County, East Central Energy will improve unserved/underserved service speeds to at least 100 megabit per second download and 100 megabits per second upload, and access up to 1Gbps/1Gbps connectivity, exceeding Minnesota's 2026 state speed goal. 
      • Total eligible project cost is $15,995,002
      • Local match is $11,245,002
      • ECE has a new website where you can plug in your address and see how soon they'll have fiber to your property:
    • The Federal Communications Commission releases its national broadband map showing where high-speed service is and is not available across the country. Residents can use the map to dispute/challenge inaccurate information. 
    • Please help our community by raising awareness and checking the map against your own address, and encourage those you know to do the same. The more challenges we submit, the more accurate the FCC map can be - which will be used to make federal funding decisions on future broadband projects. Here's how you can do this:
  • In March 2023, Pine County partnered with PCs for People to distribute 50 no-cost computers to income-eligible residents. PCs for People is a national nonprofit social enterprise working to get low-cost quality computers and internet into the homes of individuals, families, and nonprofits with low income. By recycling and then refurbishing computers, PCs for People provides a valuable service to businesses, families, and the planet by keeping computers out of landfills and repurposing them to advance digital inclusion.
  • In April 2023, Pine County formed a  Digital Connection Committee, to ensure that the state's digital equity plan reflects the experiences of our residents and business owners. A survey was distributed to help inform the state on Pine County's experiences using technology.
  • In June 2023, the results of the digital connection survey was shared with the Office of Broadband Development, for inclusion in their Digital Opportunity Plan.
Resources & Information:

  • The Affordable Connectivity Program was created by the FCC to help households struggling to pay for internet service. As part of that effort, the FCC is mobilizing people and organizations to help raise awareness about the ACP. The materials below are available for public use, and you can download and customize them to meet your needs. Eligible households can enroll in the ACP through an approved provider or by visiting
  • Find a broadband (aka internet) provider using this interactive mapping tool, or view lists by school district, county, or city. 
  • Visit the Blandin on Broadband blog to get acquainted with broadband initiatives across the state
  • View Pine County's CBR: Accelerate Final Report, 2021 Broadband Survey results and speed test map.
  • Visit the Blandin Broadband Communities page for community broadband project information


Lezlie Sauter

Economic Development Coordinator

Pine County Courthouse 
635 Northridge Drive NW
Suite 200
Pine City, MN 55063
P: 320-591-0019