BEMIDJI -- Paul Bunyan Communications was awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant on Tuesday from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to portions of St Louis, Hubbard and Itasca counties.

As a result, the cooperative will begin expansion construction next spring that will pass a minimum of 830 locations. The areas include the state Highway 34 corridor between Nevis and Park Rapids in Hubbard County, portions of the Side Lake Area that include locations in both Itasca County and St. Louis County, and an area southeast of Bigfork and north of the Scenic Highway.

The project is estimated to cost $1.78 million, with Paul Bunyan Communications contributing $980,990, and the state Border to Border grant contributing $802,620.

“We are excited to continue our efforts to bring broadband internet speeds and services to those currently without it in our region, said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager in a release.

The company expects to finalize expansion plans by early spring and will contact locations along the upcoming expansion routes shortly thereafter. Construction will start in the summer and will be completed by June 30, 2020.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development on Tuesday announced the 2017 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant recipients. The grants total $26 million for 39 broadband infrastructure projects that will provide 9,973 households, 2,169 businesses and 60 community institutions across Minnesota access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet, a release said.