PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. (Jan. 31, 2012) — Contractors from 11 telecom construction companies received details earlier today to bid on the broadband Internet expansion project in Minn. TDS Telecommunications Corp. (TDS®) hosted the pre-bid meeting to outline the project which will expand the company’s broadband network in part of Minn. Bids are due to TDS by Feb. 10.
Once complete, more than 800 customers in TDS’ Arvig Telephone Company (outlined today) in Minn., will have access to a high-speed Internet connection. The areas impacted are near Hackensack, Backus, Pine River, Pequot Lakes, Swanburg, and Graf., Minn.
The project is one of 44 TDS has received funding for from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act via the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
More than 93 percent of TDS customers nationwide currently have Internet access. The remaining seven percent are harder to reach and more difficult to provide high-speed Internet services. There are many reasons for this, including sparse population and topography. These rural geographies push the limits of technology and make it difficult, albeit nearly impossible, to develop a solid business case for deploying broadband. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides companies like TDS a window of opportunity to expand broadband services to residents in areas that are currently without access to a reliable high-speed Internet connection.
“The pre-bid meeting is a critical piece to getting this network built,” says Larry Boehm, director of Network Implementation and Optimization for TDS. “We outlined the project and the timelines. Now, contractors have a chance to submit their bid and demonstrate they can meet the project expectations on deadline. We’re looking to hire the firms quickly so construction can get underway this spring. Our customers are ready and waiting for access to high-speed Internet service.”
Background: In February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; it was signed by President Obama shortly after passage. In August 2009, TDS submitted 13 applications for broadband funding. In December 2009 and January 2010, TDS was awarded two grants totaling $12.5 million from the RUS (one of the two federal agencies administering the federal broadband stimulus program) to expand broadband access in Chatham, Mich. and Butler, Ala.
In March 2010, TDS submitted 46 applications for round two funding consideration. In August, TDS was awarded 42 grants (including the four Ind. projects and the Mich. project) bringing the company’s total awards to 44 and nearly $136 million to expand high-speed Internet services in 20 states. Engineering firms were selected and announced in February 2011, and now pre-bid meetings are taking place. Construction on many sites will begin this spring. Most networks will be completed in 2012 and the remaining in 2013.