The Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus reports…
During the upcoming special session, the Minnesota Senate is set to approve the final comprehensive agriculture, rural development, and affordable housing budget bill championed by Senate Republicans. The budget legislation places an emphasis on rural broadband expansion, invests in affordable manufactured housing and home ownership, prioritizes value-added agriculture opportunities that directly impact farmers, and increases resources for farmer mental health services.
About broadband they say…
Further, the bill funds the Minnesota Border-to-Border Rural Broadband expansion program at $40 million over the next two years million, a significant increase in the legislature’s appropriation over the last biennium.
“From health care, to education, to small businesses, broadband access is essential to our way of life in the twenty-first century,” added Westrom. “Communities that lack access to broadband cannot flourish. This significant investment addresses this issue head-on.”
It is nice to see the broadband grants get funded. It’s an important investment in rural Minnesota. All of the policymakers were supportive of the investment. The House and Governor proposed $70 million; the Senate proposed $30 million. It’s good to see a compromise.
Last night I attended the reading of the Omnibus budget that includes $40 million for broadband over the next two years. Here are the documents they discussed:
There wasn’t much about broadband, except that Senator Westrom made a point at the end to say, “Rural broadband is a strong augmentation to the bill we have put together.”
Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) yesterday reintroduced the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act to help close the rural-urban digital divide and expand access to broadband in rural parts of West Virginia, New Hampshire, and across the country.
The bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2019 directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a national standard for determining whether mobile and broadband services in rural areas are “reasonably comparable” to service provided in urban areas. The bill will help ensure that there is equitable wireless and broadband service in rural and urban areas, which has long be undefined.
“As we work to close the digital divide across the country, setting a national standard is important in order to measure progress,” Senator Capito said. “I’m proud to sponsor this bill because by requiring the FCC to set that standard, we can better identify how we can build out broadband quicker and more effectively across rural areas like West Virginia.”
This is an opportunity to level the playing field for rural areas. Right now there is a difference between what’s available in urban and rural areas with wireless (5G especially) and wireline solutions. I hope they will look at cost differences as well as speeds.
OK rural friends, let’s flood the nominations and applications with addresses outside of the Twin Cities! From the MHTA newsletter…
Are you an innovator in science and tech at a Minnesota organization? We’re looking for you. Award categories for the 2019 Tekne Awards will be announced on May 28–one week from today. Applications will be accepted from June 3 to August 9 with the Tekne Awards ceremony to be held on Wednesday, Nov 20.
The Tekne Awards recognize science and technology leaders in Minnesota’s innovation economy. The awards celebrate the individuals and organizations that play a significant role in creating new technologies to educate and improve the lives of Minnesotans and people around the world.
Tekne Lifetime Achievement Award
Exceptional leaders also play a significant role in creating prosperity for our great state. We recognize them with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Tekne program. Recent recipients include Dr. Steven Crouch from the University of Minnesota and Dr. Bhabani Misra from the University of St. Thomas. New this year, MHTA members are invited to nominate a deserving leader for this award. Details will be announced next week.
State Scoop reports…
A bipartisan group of four U.S. senators this week introduced legislation aimed at improving the maps the federal government uses to distribute broadband funding to the states, as well as giving the public the ability to challenge the accuracy of those maps.
The Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019, as the bill is known, would require broadband providers to use data generated by geospatial information systems when drawing the maps they submit to the Federal Communications Commission, which it uses as a guide to allocate billions of dollars in subsidies and grants.
They also mention Senator Klobuchar’s Improving Broadband Mapping Act…
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, has also proposed legislation that would grant power to municipalities during the broadband mapping process. Klobuchar introduced the Improving Broadband Mapping Act of 2019 in March, which would require the FCC to establish a process by which consumers and local governments could report their own data to verify carrier-submitted data. The bill is currently before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Here’s the take from a few media resources on the bipartisan bill drafted over the weekend and what it means for broadband and a predictions for the special session…
Duluth News Tribune (and several others such as Brainerd Dispatch and IN Forum)…
Greater Minnesota could see expanded access to broadband, more money for public schools and a tax cut for some as part of a budget framework put forth in the state Capitol. …
And the legislative leaders and the governor specifically blocked out $40 million to go toward building out broadband in the next budget.
KNOX Radio (Grand Forks)…
In addition to the global targets agreed to by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority
Leader the following will be included in the final agreement:
1. $59.51 million for Broadband, Agriculture and Housing
• $40 million for broadband in FY20/21 only.
Sunday’s agreement states that all that work was to be done by 5 p.m. Monday, but that deadline got blown.
Work did continue right to the end, with the Senate hurriedly passing a $385 million agriculture, housing and broadband bill after 11:30 p.m. House Republicans ran out the clock on that bill, stretching debate to midnight, when the chamber was adjourned.
The Revisor’s report is out for the Conference Committee on SF2226 – the bill that includes broadband funding and it looks like it stood steady at $40 million for grants ($20 million per year) and $250,000 per year for the Office of Broadband Development. The Conference Committee met yesterday. I am still waiting for the audio archive. I will include it when I get it. If there’s anything strange or interesting I’ll create a new post.
Section 1. BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS.
The sums shown in the columns marked “Appropriations” are appropriated to the agencies and for the purposes specified in this article. The appropriations are from the general fund, or another named fund, and are available for the fiscal years indicated for each purpose.
The figures “2020” and “2021” used in this article mean that the appropriations listed under them are available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, or June 30, 2021, respectively.
“The first year” is fiscal year 2020. “The second year” is fiscal year 2021. “The biennium” is fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
APPROPRIATIONS – Available for the Year Ending in June 30
2020 = $20,250,000
2021 = $20,250,000
Sec. 2. DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT
AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
(a) $250,000 each year is for the Broadband Development Office.
(b) $20,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 and $20,000,000 in fiscal year 2021 are appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic
development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396.
The appropriation is onetime and must be used for grants and the purposes specified under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.”