MN House Finance Committee passes budget including broadband with Amendment A 25

The Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee met earlier passed their proposed budget with a vote of 11 to 6. They heard a lot of public testimony in the last 24 hours.

The big news is that they have budgeted $40 million for broadband over the next two years. Many representatives were disappointed in the low number. The other issues seemed to be:

  • How to balance the needs of unserved and underserved?
  • Are the speed goals adequate/realistic?
  • Why offer first Rights of Refusal to incumbents when a new provider applies for funding to upgrade service to their area? And is there any way to hold the incumbent accountable to serve that area if they cause another proposal to get denied?

I took some notes – but mostly focused on video. Some very impassioned language from Representatives.

MAK/DD https://youtu.be/pJZnknqbW8Y

Here are the start of my notes in case they are helpful…

Rep Baker – A25
Speed goals 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026

Unserved is 10/3 or below
Underserved is 25/3

Unserved needs 1/1 match
Underserved needs 3/1 match and needs job retention/creation

Right of refusal
We need to stretch dollars to reach unserved areas. TO do that we need to not overbuild one way to so that is to give incumbents right to challenge – but they will need to disclose their plans, especially as relates to using CAF II funding to expand/deepen networks.

CenturyLInk just said they’d dedicate $1 million for CAF II in Willmar

Dan Dorman
This is supposed to be the Greater MN Session and I’m surprised that we’re discussing unserved vs underserved.

MAK
Good to allow flexibility in expenditure of funds.
Good to have some direction on economic development – we haven’t hit the perfect way to address economic development issue because the original intent of the Task Force was to focus on unserved.
Good to have Task Force member goals.
Good to have 25% cap vs $5M cap

Question: Kids need access to broadband for homework. Access in the library doesn’t suffice in rural areas – especially since kids do homework late at night. How are we doing there?
MAK: There are times in a rural area where you stay up late working and then drive home. Kids do face this. It would be nice if they had the broadband to do their work at home. It might be even worse on a reservation – they have the worst broadband coverage.

Rep Simonson
State goal: do we have a cost estimate for 10/20 in 2026?
What is estimate of public funding required?
What’s the estimate for ongoing costs?

$9M to $3B to reach broadband goals if nothing changes but I think that’s worst case scenario.
We want to take advantage of federal funding when we can. We need to see how CAF II projects get deployed.
$40M is a good kickstart combines with CAF II funding. Maybe the costs to deploy broadband will come down.

Rep Johnson
Rights of first refusal is a big concern.
Big problem with broadband legislation is the lack of investment.

Rep Fabian
What is the intent of economic development?
Priority is unserved – if families can’t get online workers will move.

How much was spent last year on telecom infrastructure?
$705M

How many miles of fiber?
Not sure – grants aren’t done yet. Projects slated for 2017.

Rep Mahoney
Want to treat urban & rural equally. Seems like technology changes a lot. In 10 years we’ve gone from flip phone to smartphone. That’s a generation. Can rural areas afford to lose a generation of kids when we don’t invest?

Baker: I want to be a good steward of money. Good ideas like wifi on buses will keep kids in the area.

Are we getting rid of past pots of money? The pots for education and economic development?
Yes.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy 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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