HF7 Broadband funding passes to Ways & Means with an extra $15 million

Today the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division sent HF7, the bill for broadband funding, to Ways and Means. The bill for ongoing annual $35 million for broadband grants was introduced by Rep Ecklund and in committee Rep Layman added a one-time addition of $15 million for grants.

You can watch the sessions below

Or read my notes.

Intro from Rep Ecklund.

Amendment by Rep Layman – last year we asked for $51 million per biennium. We only came up with $15 million. Then it was vetoed. So I present an amendment to add another $15 million to be added as soon as it gets signed. This is a one-time addition.

$70 million is in the Governor’s budget. I’d prefer not to add this.
The new budget is coming out on March 15. We don’t know what the budget allocation for broadband will be.

The question is – is there funding we could take from elsewhere?

Broadband is important especially in small, rural communities.

Rep Mahoney – after 6 years of battling to get any money from the former GOP Chair, it’s refreshing/frustrating to see the change. There should be some consistency.

Testifiers

Steve Grove – we really need to incentivize providers to reach the 25/3 by 2022 goal. This funding will help get there. We have done the math and this will help reach the last 185,000 homes. Broadband will help rural areas live fuller lives.

Questions – what’s the impact of $15 million – rather than run 2 rounds for grants, we’d run 3.

Questions – can we get a map that shows incremental improvements – by future improvements based on time and funds required.

Question – what’s left after this $70 million? We think this amount will get us to the 2022 goals.

Question – when will this be done? $35 million year each year until 2022 will get us back on pace. This is a moving target because development happens each year. The state has invested $85 million since the onset. All to rural areas – and maybe a few suburban areas. This will be another $300 million

For every $1 rural constituents bring into the state, they get $1.40 back.

Question – will we ever really finish the job? This is one of the jobs that the Task Force did in the past.

Question – when does this become the job of the private sector? A sustainable business model is part of the hope/plan.

Question – what’s the value of the Task Force? Will Walz be creating a new Task Force? It’s being discussed.

Maybe we could use the standing committee instead of a Task Force.

Question – How many rural houses have access to 100/20? Around 70-80 percent.

Question – There aren’t plans to bump up to 100/20 but just that the projects are scale-able? Yes.

Vince Robinson – Lincoln County, private business, MN Broadband Coalition
Coalition is 80+ organizations.
HF 7 is our top priority – we want to fund the fund.
Lincoln County is economically challenged. Ag is big business. We will never prosper without broadband. Our students need this.

We have a cooperative that would like to help serve out area but it’s too expensive – $8.5 million. So we are working on a plan where the provider pays some ($2.2 million), the county pays some and a state grant would make the difference.

Expanding access to those who don’t have broadband increasing the value to those who do have it.

Question – the maps on the Coalition fact sheet don’t match the numbers you’ve presented.

Monty Murrow – Rural Telco Provider and MTA member
We didn’t participate in the first grant year.
Next year we did apply and got funding.
We have had several successful projects.
Sometimes the projects expand because the engineering to expand makes sense.
We cover a lot of territory.
We have customer who works on Hollywood soundtracks – we uploads terabytes of info but is able to work from his mother’s home in rural MN.
The Office of Broadband Development does a very good job.

John Warner, Mayor of Rice Lake
Our city hall was built in the 70s. But we can’t get broadband. We are trying to get providers. Our internet speed is 1.25 Mbps download; upload is .65.
We are near the University. We have students in our community and many medical workers.

Susan Hursted from Rice Lake
A state grant would make a big difference in our community.
St Louis County has many online services, we can’t access them. It’s difficult to even give property assessments.
It’s hard to have a home-based business. Kids can’t do homework. Hard to sell a house without broadband access.

Daniel Lightfoot – League of MN Cities
Broadband is a priority for LMC.

Bruce Miller – MN Farmer’s Union
Sister lives in rural MN. She asked – why can we talk to people on the moon but I can’t get broadband?
Having access helps me as a farmer.
Broadband is not a luxury. It’s like electricity. We cannot leave farmers behind.

John Dukich, MHTA
Lack of broadband creates challenges.Broadband opens doors of opportunity for business owners, students, healthcare…

Steve Pensky – MN Association of Townships
1800 towns throughout the state
Our members feel like there are stuck but these grants offer a way to fix their problems.

Rep Ecklund
Timber, Taconite, Tourism – we need to add technology

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards, 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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