House Republicans recently introduced legislation that proposes $35 million for broadband funding, as opposed to the $100 proposed by House Democrats and the Governor and recommended by the Minnesota Broadband Task Force.
Here is the main proposed changes:
$35,000,000 in fiscal year 2017 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account established in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396, for the purposes described in that section. Of the broadband grant awards made by the commissioner with this appropriation, the commissioner must award 60 percent of the funds to applicants in unserved areas and 40 percent to applicants in underserved areas, as the terms are defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.394. If grant awards are insufficient to fully expend funds available in either unserved or undeserved areas, the commissioner may expend unused funds on grants to applicants in areas in which grant awards were fully expended.
The amount is higher than last year but lower than other proposed amounts. Also there a specification on how much should go to unserved versus underserved areas. Here is how they define the two:
(h) “Underserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds that meet the state broadband goals of ten to 20 megabits per second download and five to ten megabits per second upload.
(i) “Unserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service, as defined in section 116J.39.
The Minnesota Broadband Task Force is recommending a new state broadband speed goal of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. It’s unclear to me whether future proposed legislation would aim to change the definition – if so the qualifications specified above would presumably change too.
They have also removed “fiber optics” from the definition of broadband conduit…
“Broadband conduit” means a conduit, pipe, innerduct, or microduct
for fiber optic or other cablesthat supportbroadband and wireless facilities for broadband service.
Finally there are proposed changes that seem to focus on the management of the funds and grant program. First proposed advance notice of grant criteria…
(b) At least 30 days prior to the first day applications may be submitted each fiscal year, the commissioner must publish the specific criteria and any quantitative weighting scheme or scoring system the commissioner used to evaluate or rank applications and award grants under subdivision 6 on the department’s Web site.
Second access to who has applied and how the application fared…
the names of each vendor that provided information to the applicant regarding the scope, cost, or technical aspects of the project; each vendor’s experience in constructing broadband projects; and the ways, if any, in which the proposed project was altered based on vendor comments; and
(10) any additional information requested by the commissioner.
Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 116J.395, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Application evaluation report.
By June 30 of each year, the office shall place on the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Web site, and provide to the chairs and ranking minority members of the senate and house of representatives committees with primary jurisdiction over broadband, a list of all applications for grants under this section received during the previous year and, for each application:
(1) the results of any quantitative weighting scheme or scoring system the commissioner used to award grants or rank the applications;
(2) the grant amount requested; and
(3) the grant amount awarded, if any.