Enventis, a subsidiary of HickoryTech, has begun construction on its broadband stimulus-funded project that will extend the company’s middle mile fiber optic network across Minnesota. The company last year won a $16.8 million grant to help cover network construction costs from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The project is expected to cost $24 million over three years, with HickoryTech contributing $7.2 million of the costs.

“The project, which will be completed by 2013, will significantly increase our fiber network and enable high-capacity broadband services in greater Minnesota as well as create jobs,” said HickoryTech President and CEO John Finke, in an announcement of the project kick-off.

Enventis already operates a 2800-mile fiber network that runs through several Midwestern states. The new project will add 428 miles to that network. The Minnesota project will be constructed in two phases, with the first phase linking Minneapolis/St. Paul with Duluth, as well as Superior, Wisc. The second phase will connect Brainerd with Moorhead and with Fargo, N.D.

According to a summary posted on the Enventis web site,the new network will connect 36 rural Minnesota communities in 23 counties and deliver a minimum of 100 Mb/s broadband Ethernet service to 74 community anchor institutions. More than 315,000 households and 74,000 small and medium size businesses also will have access to the network, the summary says.

Many broadband stimulus awards went to small privately held companies, but HickoryTech is one of a handful of publicly held companies–including Windstream and TDS Telecom —that also won stimulus funding. Some publicly held carriers opted not to apply for stimulus funding, possibly because they did not want to have to make their networks available to competitors as program guidelines required.

HickoryTech already has a significant wholesale basis, however, and actually invites other carriers to inquire about connecting to the new network by using an interface available at www.enventis.com.




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