ST. PAUL -- Paul Bunyan Communications has been awarded $2.56 million in grant funding as part of a state initiative.

Gov. Tim Walz recently announced the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is awarding $23.2 million in border-to-border broadband development grant funds to 30 projects across the state. During the 2019 legislative session, Walz signed $40 million in one-time funds for the grant program in 2020 and 2022, a release said.

Paul Bunyan Communications is receiving the dollars for its North Central Minnesota Fiber project. The last mile of the project will upgrade 914 un-served and 439 under-served locations in part of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and rural portions of Cass, Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis Counties.

The proposed project areas are a response to consumer demand and it will provide relief in economically distressed communities that need new alternatives to diversify and strengthen.

"Fast, reliable broadband access is a critical economic development tool that improves quality of life and makes businesses in Greater Minnesota more competitive," Walz said in the release. "These grants help us get closer to our goal to ensure that every Minnesotan has high-speed internet access by 2022."

"You simply can't participate in the innovation sector — or almost any sector of the economy today, for that matter — without high speed access to the internet," Steve Grove, Minnesota DEED commissioner, said in the release. "These grants help us reach that last mile of service in Minnesota and our goal to be a model state where you don't have to move to a metro area to participate in the 21st century economy."