IN FORM reports on the need for better broadband in rural areas…
Midwestern states, however, rank high in their access to internet service. A U.S. News and World Report ranking in January said Iowa and North Dakota were the top two states for internet access, and South Dakota and Minnesota also made the top 10.
The article talks about some of the technology solutions in play to help reach far corners and details some of the ways government can help extend broadband. Minnestoa came up by names as did the Office of Rural Broadband Act, introduced by Senators Klobuchar and Cramer…
The report suggests some gains can be made in streamlining processes for permitting, using federal property for expansion of commercial services and making federal funds go farther through better collaboration.
In addition to the recommendations made in the report, other federal efforts are underway. U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recently introduced the Office of Rural Broadband Act, which would create an office to coordinate with other federal agencies to maintain information on current rural broadband initiatives and programs and to remove barriers to broadband deployment. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have signed on as original co-sponsors.
Hoeven, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, announced the Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, which Congress approved Feb. 15. It provided $550 million for a rural broadband loan and grant pilot program targeted to areas that lack access to broadband service.
Efforts also are underway in states. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s spending plan includes money to bring broadband access to rural Minnesota in two years. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced plans to close the “broadband gap” during her first State of the State Address. In Montana, Senate Bill 239 would exempt property taxes on fiber optics installed by utilities for five years. After that, the tax value would be phased in at 20 percent a year over five years.