In less than 24 months, approximately 475 more homes, businesses and a government building will be included in Acentek’s high-speed internet system. It was announced last month that the Houston-based company received a $1.78 million grant to add 159 miles of fiber optics to residents living in the village of Whalan and Carrolton and Holt townships. The grant is through the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The $1.78 million grant for Acentek is part of a new round of grants, totaling approximately $34 million, that will expand high-speed internet access to 16,627 households, 2,240 businesses and 71 community institutions in greater Minnesota.

“With this grant, which will pay for 39 percent of the project, we will be able to offer better services to many of our rural costumers,” said Darren Moser, Acentek’s chief financial officer (CFO).

The total cost to install nearly 160 miles of fiber optics to Fillmore County residents is $4.68 million. The local match for the project is $2.9 million. Moser noted Acentek was awarded $75,000 from Fillmore County.

Moser noted that with the topography of Fillmore County, the cost to dig 159 miles of fiber optics through hills, valleys, cliff, limestone formations and wooded land is quite a challenge.

“It’s definitely more expensive to do this in Fillmore County than say, out in western Minnesota,” Moser explained. “We had to figure this in when we put our grant application together. It just costs more to get this system in place here. And the state agreed with us, as we were awarded this grant. It would have been much more difficult to add this much to our system without the state grant.”

Work will begin this spring and should be completed by the end of the construction season, 2018.

“It has to be completed by June of 2019,” Moser noted. “But we feel we will have the project completed by the end of 2018.”

Moser said Acentek will strive to have the majority of the work done within the right of way. Horizontal directional boring will be done in yards and lawns for minimum disturbance to homeowners.

Moser added the project will definitely improve internet service to an ever-growing populous that requires high speed access. More persons working in Rochester, Winona, La Crosse and other urban centers are working from home and require high-speed internet access.

Minnesota’s border-to-border development program provides internet providers with grants to expand broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. The funding pays for up to 50 percent of the cost of developing broadband for improved high-speed internet in communities across the state.

“These grants will make it possible for people, businesses and institutions throughout greater Minnesota to have access to high-speed internet,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy in a statement issued with the grant awards. “Broadband is an important economic development tool that will improve people’s quality of life and make businesses more competitive.”

Moser said that if Acentek customers have any questions about this project, or other projects, they should contact their local Acentek representatives.