MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Katie Sieben, commissioner of Minnesota’s economic development department, held a teleconference Monday to talk about the state’s new broadband Internet expansion program.

Sieben said the $19.4 million in grants will help connect 6,100 households, 83 community institutions and 150 businesses with faster Internet.

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“From an economic development perspective, not having access to high quality broadband limits our state’s ability to compete,” Sieben said.

Winning applicants were awarded grants as small as $105,000 and as big as $5 million.

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“Just like businesses and homes need electricity to function, they need broadband to function, and in today’s global economy, broadband isn’t just nice, it’s necessary,” Smith said.

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The legislature set aside $20 million last year for broadband expansion.