Minnesota Broadband Task Force report is out: recommending 25/3 MB speeds and $200 million (over 2 years)

I am in a Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting as I post this but I wanted to get the latest report out…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Releases Annual Report

Report contains policy recommendations,
including $200 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program and updated speed goals

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband released its 2016 Annual Report today, which includes recommendations for Governor Dayton, the legislature, and other policy makers to consider in the 2016 Legislative Session.

The recommendations outlined in the report are aimed at ensuring every Minnesotan has access to broadband, and include $200 million in funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grand Development Program and an update to the state’s outdated speed goals.

“The goal of the task force is that every home and business, border-to-border, should have access to high-speed broadband,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. “Expanding broadband allows all businesses to compete in today’s global economy no matter where they are located in Minnesota, expands educational opportunities, and helps people stay in touch with health care providers to receive care and monitor their health conditions. These recommendations will move our state closer to our goal.”

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, created by the Legislature in 2014 and initially funded at $20 million, provides funding to build the state’s broadband infrastructure and promote broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of the state. The grants provide up to a dollar-for-dollar match on funds, not to exceed $5 million for any one project, and are distributed to qualified entities.
Minnesota’s universal broadband access and speed goals, originally established in 2010, specified that by no later than 2015, “all state residents and businesses have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second.” As of February 2015, 91.45 percent of Minnesota households had broadband access available at a speed of at least 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload, while 80.16 percent of rural Minnesota households had a broadband connection that meets these speeds*.

The task force’s new proposal would update the state’s speed goals to specify that all businesses and homes should have access to high-speed broadband services at a download speed of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second by 2022. These speeds are in alignment with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of high-speed broadband.

Furthermore, the report recommends that by 2026, it is a state goal that all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

Additional policy recommendations include:
• Increase telecommunications aid for schools and libraries
• Expand existing sales tax exemption for telecommunications equipment
• Reform regulations of Minnesota’s telecommunications industry
• Review existing permitting criteria to see where there might be opportunities for efficiencies
• Create an Office of Broadband operating fund to promote broadband adoption and use

The full report can be found here.
* These figures include broadband service provided by wired, fixed wireless and wireless technologies, as Minnesota statutes did not specify a technology.

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