Broadband funding discrepancy one issue, management of money is another

Bring Me the News wrote about the discrepancy in proposed state broadband funding…

Three budget targets have been unveiled, according to a statement. Governor Mark Dayton proposed investing $100 million, the Senate DFL has proposed $85 million, and House Republicans only want to spend $35 million. The final amount should be decided in May.

Lt. Governor Tina Smith criticized the Republicans’ proposal in a separate statement, pointing out that it would “barely make a dent in the need for high-speed, affordable broadband access in Greater Minnesota.”
However, the Republicans are the only group that has also outlined how their proposed money should be spent.

Their proposal focuses on helping students, said the Pioneer Press. $7 million would be allocated for school Internet grants, including wi-fi hot spots that students could bring home, and $28 million for rural broadband expansion.

I’m not sure it’s entirely correct to say that the Republicans are the only ones to outline how the money should be spent. There is an Office of Broadband Development. I think the assumption is that the OBD would manage the broadband border grants as they have for the past two years. The OBD takes their cue from the Legislature (such as the unserved/underserved direction) but the OBD is there to handle the process.

The Republicans have added a number of proposals that seem to get legislators more involved in the process (or at least inspection) of administering the grants. I think this is in reaction to the communities that didn’t get funded. Those communities were disappointed – but I think the bigger issue is that some deserving communities didn’t get funded because there simply was not enough money to fund all of the deserving projects. I’m not sure the more efficient or effective answer comb through criteria and weighting as much as to budget enough money to invest in more deserving projects.

Having talked to the folks in education, I’m not sure that the specificity of funds for education will help schools get what they really need. While wifi spots are a great idea – the school may be better served with funding that helps cover basic costs – and that would be $7 million a year to offset cost of broadband.

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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