MN looks at $70 million for broadband grants in rural areas

Finance & Commerce reports…

After a five-year effort to bring broadband internet to rural Minnesota, state leaders believe the finish line is in sight.

Under Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development would spend $35 million in both 2020 and 2021 to support the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. That $70 million will put the state on track to hit a statutory goal of extending broadband to all Minnesotans by 2022, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said Wednesday.

“The numbers we put against this are built on a history of knowing what the program requires to be successful,” Grove said in a conference call with reporters. “We feel like that $70 million total investment is a smart and well-informed estimate to get us on the path to meeting those goals.”

They look at local research on the subject…

Better internet not only increases access to Netflix and other entertainment options, but also benefits economies and communities in tangible ways. A study by the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation looked at five counties that upgraded broadband infrastructure and found that in four of them, the collective economic benefit for households will exceed the amount of public investment in less than two years. High-speed internet is also increasingly important in education and health care, especially in rural areas.

And recognize broad support for the bill…

Although Walz’s broader budget proposal has met vocal objections from many legislators, Grove said the broadband proposal has so far received largely positive responses. In fact, Republican Rep. Sandy Layman has amended the bill to tack on an additional $15 million for the 2019 fiscal year. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, while not taking a stance on the specific level of allocation, wrote to legislators last week urging them to support funding for the program.

This entry was posted in 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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