Duluth appreciates USF and Minnesota Broadband Fund but wants more support for Minnesota Broadband

Yesterday the Duluth New Tribune ran an editorial on the importance of broadband and need for greater government support to expand broadband. They outlined what is currently being done of the federal level…

While Minnesota lawmakers and state leaders have been talking big but allocating little to expand rural broadband, the good news for the mostly rural Northland and others in the Gopher State is that there’s still the federal Connect America Fund, the modern reincarnation of the Universal Service Fund. That was the funding mechanism that helped build out telephone networks, including to farms and other sparsely populated areas, last century.

The Connect America Fund collects fees from telephone users in order to offer annual service subsidies that allow Internet providers to extend service to higher-cost rural areas without increasing the bills of existing ratepayers.

Through 2020, more than $85 million from the fund is to be invested in Minnesota, enough to connect over 170,000 rural locations that right now don’t have high-speed broadband. Our state’s Internet service providers simply had to say yes to the money. Frontier did so in June. Consolidated, Windstream and CenturyLink followed suit last month, ahead of a Monday deadline to commit.

And what’s being done on the state level…

Closer to home, as frustrated as many Minnesotans may be over how long it’s taking to achieve border-to-border broadband, Minnesota actually is doing better than many places. Minnesota created task forces to study the need and to determine how it can be met. The state has an Office of Broadband Development. And while it was only a fraction of the $100 million deemed necessary by experts,

$10.6 million was allocated during the Legislature’s special session this June for the state’s broadband infrastructure grant program.

And details some of the steps being taken to improve and expand broadband…

That’s progress — but it’s still not enough, according to Klobuchar. With Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and 40-plus other members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, she sent a letter to the FCC, she said, “looking for some real money, asking them to reexamine the Universal Service Fund, which is a humongous fund.”

And…

The senator’s written request comes at the same time as legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan to create, for the first time, a coordinated federal strategy to expanding high-tech communications. Centralized at what would be the new Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives would be $724 million in grants and loans already being distributed for broadband. The office also would handle existing federal regulations related to broadband and would be run by a new under-secretary appointed by the president. The office would be the go-to place for local, regional and state broadband efforts as well as serve as a central clearinghouse for broadband information for federal agencies.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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