ST. PAUL - Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Friday that $11 million in grants have been awarded for projects to expand broadband access in 15 Greater Minnesota communities.

“We need border-to-border broadband Internet access to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans,” Smith said. “Broadband Internet access isn’t just nice, it’s necessary for Minnesota businesses to grow and our students to thrive. While these grants are a good start, significant need remains.”

This broadband funding was awarded under DEED’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law in May 2014. This year, DEED received 44 applications for funding, totaling more than $29 million in requests. Recipients were selected based on an internal review and scoring process.

Among those receiving grants was MVTV Wireless Middle Mile, Southwestern Minnesota, $808,080.

The MVTV project will improve services to 6,000 households and businesses that are MVTV customers in 20 southwestern Minnesota counties, with leverage possibilities for another 29,000 customers. The counties are Blue Earth, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Meeker, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Swift, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine. Total project costs are $1.85 million. MVTV will cover the remaining $1.04 million (56 percent local match).

The project intends to improve broadband access and speeds for more than 3,000 farm-related businesses and 6,000 rural residents across nearly 30,000 square miles.