MN House Republicans – $28M for broadband grants $7M for school broadband over two years

The House Republicans unveiled their broadband proposals today. I will post the press release and videos from the meeting below. Here’s the highest level look:

  • $13 million for Border to Border grants in 2017
  • $15 million for Border to Border grants in 2018
  • $7 million for education

The amount they are looking at is much lower than the $100 million budget proposed by Governor Dayton, the Senate and the Minnesota Broadband Task Force (who suggested $200 million over two years). And the amount for schools is half of what they say they need to make broadband ends meet.

Representative Kresha says the House proposal is better than Governor Dayton’s because it is specific and Governor Dayton’s was not. I think it depends on how you view the role of the Office of Broadband Development.

Also he says this proposal is better because wireless will reach more people. Although I don’t know if you can count a home as served if their broadband relies on being able to check out a mobile hotspot from the library – unless they are able to budget for enough hotspots for everyone who needs them to have one permanently checked out.

It’s great to see money going to broadband – I’m just not sure that this proposal is what people in rural areas have in mind. Especially given the numbers suggested by the Senate and Governor, broadband proponents may be disappointed.

RELEASE: Republicans unveil broadband proposals

ST. PAUL, MN – On Wednesday, April 13, House Republicans unveiled a series of proposals to increase broadband access throughout Minnesota. The proposals total $35 million including $7 million dedicated to improving broadband access for Minnesota students through new, innovative grant programs. Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, has led the push for increased broadband support around the state.

“Because of innovation in education and health services, people in unserved and underserved areas in Minnesota are relying on adequate broadband speeds,” said Kresha. “Students, local governments, and main street businesses rely on increased broadband offerings to compete globally.”

Of the $7 million of broadband funding in the supplemental education proposal, $5 million would be used as grants for broadband wifi hotspots, while $2 million would be allocated to build broadband capacity. Inner city, suburban, and rural districts can use the grants to purchase mobile hotspots for student use or provide wifi hotspots to adult education classes and displaced workers. Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, supports the measures to bring broadband to underserved schools.

“School districts statewide can receive up to $100,000 for equipment and operating costs to improve broadband connectivity,” said Loon. “Giving disadvantaged children the ability to connect with the rest of the world is important for the future of our state.”

Along with broadband education funding, Republicans proposed an additional $28 million for rural broadband expansion. Combined with federal Connect America Funds, Minnesotans will see a historic broadband infrastructure investment. The funding focuses on unserved and underserved areas, as well as areas with larger numbers of low-income households.

“We cannot continue to let rural Minnesota slip further behind other parts of the state that already have fast, reliable internet access,” said Dave Baker, R-Willmar. “It is time to help Greater Minnesota gain the broadband access they desperately need.”

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

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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