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High-speed Internet project breaks ground in south-central Minnesota

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A $45 million public-private partnership to bring high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service to south-central Minnesota is moving forward.

RS Fiber Cooperative and Hiawatha Broadband Communications broke ground Wednesday on a fiber-optic network that will deliver Internet service to 27 cities and townships. The two-phase project, which is expected to serve roughly 6,200 potential users when completed, is based in Sibley County and also includes portions of Renville, Nicollet and McLeod counties.

About 1,600 homes and businesses will be connected by year's end, according to Toby Brummer, general manager of Winona, Minn.-based Hiawatha Broadband. One gigabyte speeds are expected to be available in Gaylord, Minn., and Winthrop, Minn., this year.

"For businesses, it's going to connect them to the world," Brummer said. "They'll be on a level playing field with the same businesses that are located in metropolitan areas that can get these speeds and services now."

The network is being built and managed by Hiawatha for the cooperative. Project planning began about six years ago and local governments agreed to work in tandem to get high-speed Internet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.