For Immediate Release (Sunday, February 14, 2010)
CNN will visit Southeastern Minnesota this week to examine the region’s need for advanced telecommunications connectivity and to look closely at Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc., and its failed application for first-round funding from the broadband component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. HBC recently was informed that its request for funds was denied by both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
HBC applied for funds with which to extend its services to five currently unserved areas in the region (Minneiska, Miesville, New Trier, the Prairie Island Dakota Indian Reservation at Red Wing, and Wacouta, an unincorporated area southeast of Red Wing), in addition to extending its services to Lake City and Red Wing.
The ARRA broadband program set aside $7.2 billion to be used to build out more broadband throughout America, particularly in places without broadband, with very slow broadband speeds or where Internet penetration fell beneath 40 percent.
As CNN began to examine the ARRA and its impacts, HBC was identified by a number of sources as a firm whose application would have provided the benefits (new jobs, new commerce and new applications) the program is seeking to achieve. Conversations between HBC officials and CNN resulted in the visit that will take place Tuesday and Wednesday.
While in Southeastern Minnesota, the CNN team will visit with residents in Red Wing, Lake City, Minneiska and Winona, in addition to viewing applications the ARRA funding would have created and spending time at HBC’s corporate headquarters at 58 Johnson St., Winona.
Of special interest to the team is the lack of connectivity on the Prairie Island reservation, Minneiska’s desperate need for an emergency warning system and the A-VU Media project to aid seniors and special needs people, scheduled for development in Winona, that would have been jump-started by a successful grant request.
HBC President and CEO Gary Evans said, “It’s satisfying to be identified by CNN as a worthy applicant. We were exceedingly disappointed that our request was rejected. And even though we know the government was buried in applications, we hoped there would be some information available as to why our request failed.”
Evans noted that the deadline for ARRA second-round grant requests is March 15. “We are undecided about another application,” Evans said. “Perhaps CNN will help us uncover reasons behind the rejection that will help facilitate a decision. But regardless of that, it will be nice to have a leading national information source see our beautiful area of the world and meet some of its residents.”
The CNN report will be produced by Emily Probst. CNN was created in June 1980 and has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television networks. CNN has launched many regional and foreign-language networks around the word. CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.