Local media reacts to broadband budget of $35M from House and $85M from Senate

Yesterday I posted notes from the House Republicans press conference on their $35 million budget for broadband. Apparently the Senate came out with $85 million for broadband. (Still less than the MN Task Force Recommendation of $200 million or Governor Dayton’s suggestion of $100 million.) Today the papers are reacting.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune

However, the GOP spending plan is dwarfed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s broadband proposal. Dayton wants $100 million this year for the broadband grant fund. Members of the House DFL criticized their GOP colleagues, saying $35 million over two years is insufficient.

“It’s unfortunate when we have the opportunity to invest in broadband that we’re missing it,” said Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth. “We have a $900 million surplus.”

From Minnesota Public Radio

Now, the three budget blueprints floating around the Capitol propose considerable spending for high-speed internet expansion in rural Minnesota. However, the Democratic governor, the DFL-led Senate and the GOP-majority House disagree over what form the broadband would take, who would get it and how soon. …

Senate Democrats said Wednesday that they hope to come up with $85 million. That’s $50 million more than House Republicans are proposing. The final figure won’t come until a broader budget deal is struck — if one is at all — sometime in May.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said the Republican amount would barely make a dent. She readily acknowledges that even $100 million won’t get broadband to all 244,000 households without it.

“We’re trying to find a good balance, a balance between making real progress while also realizing that we can’t solve this problem all at once,” she said. “It’s like taking a big bite out of an apple. You take a big bite, you make progress and we come back to it next year and hope to make more progress.”

From St Paul Pioneer Press

House Democrats criticized the majority’s proposal, saying it’s not enough money to effectively help rural communities. They support Dayton’s $100 million proposal and say Republicans aren’t putting forth enough funding in the current two-year budget.

The proposal from House Republicans would increase broadband spending by $20 million for this biennium, with an additional $15 million to be spent in the budget for the 2018-19 cycle. Lawmakers hope communities could pair state broadband funding with federal dollars from the Connect America Fund, which aims to help rural communities pay for the infrastructure needed to access high-speed Internet.

Rep. Tim Mahoney, a St. Paul Democrat, called the plan “just smoke and mirrors.”

“How about we actually put investments into greater Minnesota … and quit trying to baffle them with malarkey,” he said.

From FOX 9

One of the biggest funding fights at the Minnesota Capitol this spring is something many people take for granted in the Twin Cities metro: internet access. In rural Minnesota, too many areas still don’t have enough coverage or high speeds.

Laying down hardline and fiber takes a lot of money, but it also takes a lot of time. That’s why Republicans are making the argument to use wireless as a quick way of getting broadband in the hands of rural residents, especially students.

From KADL 610..

House Republicans’ proposal unveiled on Wednesday would allot only about a third of the 100 million dollars Governor Mark Dayton wants to expand broadband Internet access in Greater Minnesota.

Little Falls Republican Ron Kresha says “the governor’s approach has always been a dollar amount, an aspiration — but we’ve had to actually put solutions together.” Kresha says Republicans’ plan targets dollars to help school districts purchase wi-fi hotspots for students and adult education classes.

Saint Paul Democrat Tim Mahoney responds Republicans should get honest that “they don’t really care about broadband in Greater Minnesota. They’re not willing to pay for it. They want to give tax breaks to billionaires.”

From West Central Tribune

Rural Republicans who laid out the plan stopped short of saying they would reject more broadband money if it becomes available in negotiations before the May 23 session adjournment deadline. Kresha said that Dayton does not spell out how he would spend the $100 million he has targeted for broadband, and Dayton himself has said it might not be spent in a year.

“The governor’s approach has always been a dollar amount…” Kresha said. “We have put solutions together.” …
Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, said Republicans want to spend too little, adding the GOP plan “will not level the economic playing field for greater Minnesota.”

In 29 counties, Marquart said, half of the homes do not have access to fast enough Internet. “That puts rural Minnesota at a huge economic disadvantage. … We are not second-class citizens out there.”

Rep. John Persell, D-Bemidji, said that the rural economy needs to be rebuilt. “This is part of it for rural Minnesota.”

If too little is spent, he added, “at the rate we are going … most of those kids will be out of school before we see it in my part of the state”

From the Brainerd Dispatch

However, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in a statement that the Republican broadband proposal wasn’t enough, and pointed out that Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $100 million in grant funding.

“The governor and I welcome the work of House Republicans on broadband,” Smith said. “Their proposals, however, barely make a dent in the need for high-speed, affordable broadband access in greater Minnesota. At the level of investment they are proposing, the 244,000 households in greater Minnesota without broadband connections will wait decades to get up to speed. This is bad for our economy, bad for greater Minnesota, and we need to do better.”
The Senate DFL’s budget target for broadband, among a broader list of supplementary budget targets unveiled Wednesday, was $85 million.

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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