Today the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division met to discussion a few bills, including two on broadband. In short – Rep Kresha introduced a bill (HF1137) that is very similar to an earlier bill but increases the appropriation for broadband grants to $100 million. The previous bill originally requested $70 million; but added a one time increase of $15 million just the other day.
The second bill (HF367) asked that a portion of that funding be set aside for deployment of middle mile infrastructure in Willow River, Pine City, Cromwell, and Aitkin.
Both were referred to Ways and Means. There was some concern that budgets were being set before the budget targets were handed down to committees. Although Representative (and Committee Chair) Pelowski seemed to feel that they should go big with bipartisan and enthusiastic support. There was also concern that HF367 might change how the popular grant program would be run.
(You can my live video via Twitter https://twitter.com/AnnT/status/1105891510816378880)
Here are more complete notes:
HF1137 Introduced by Kresha
Broadband grant program funding provided, and money appropriated.
Broadband is important for telemedicine.
I think we should put $100 million into broadband grant.
Question – We used a map to talk about the $70 million – how will $100 impact that map?
More money, more match. The biggest challenge we have is the last mile. We need a number that gets us to the most remote. It’s not just about speeds – but about equity.
Question – we just added $15 million last meeting and heard that might mean than 3 rounds of grants.
More money would accelerate the process.
HF376 Introduced by Sundin
Willow River, Pine City, Cromwell, and Aitkin; existing broadband network funding provided, and money appropriated.
This will create a lot of middle mile infrastructure that will not create, but will open the door to better broadband to the home.
Question – you are looking to get funding from the Border to Border grants?
Ultimately it seems like it would come from that.
Question – does that mean we can request carve out for the funds?
It does seem like we are suggesting funding that has never been available before
Question – doesn’t the budget really depends on the target we’re given?
We’re a new committee; it does depends on the target but there is a great enthusiasm – so why wouldn’t we push for more funding for broadband?
If we’re looking at $100 million – this would help serve the goal of ubiquitous broadband.