The Faribault Daily News reports on the state of broadband funding in the legislature…
A bill authored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) calls for $35 million in broadband spending. While that’s more than three times the amount approved previously, it is well short of Gov. Mark Dayton’s target of $100 million of state spending to aggressively expand the broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas.
And asks what the impact of changes in how any money will be distributed has an impact on the area..
Baker’s bill would require 60 percent of the funds to be awarded to unserved areas with the remaining going to underserved areas.
Deanna Kuennen, Faribault’s community and economic development director, attended the Minnesota Broadband Network seminar recently, which involved higher-level policy discussions on how best to expand the existing broadband infrastructure.
According to Kuennen, Rice County is currently 80 percent covered, meaning state dollars may not be forthcoming to engage the last 20 percent at the expense of unserved areas.
“Ten [megabits per second download speed] and 5 [Mbps upload speed] is the minimum, and in Rice County, 80 percent have that already. We’re considered served,” said Kuennen. “If you go out and talk to some of our users, they might not agree. But it will affect our ability to get funding in the future.”
It’s interesting to see that this year everyone is interested in discussing the money AND the details. There’s a recognition that especially in rural areas, broadband is a game-changer for the whole community and therefore the whole community should be part of the conversation…
“When we start talking about the infrastructure, in the past the government used to be involved in water and some get involved in electricity,” said Kuennen. “This needs to be one of those standardized things that government talks about.”