Winona Daily News posts a letter to the Editor from Nancy Hoffman, chairwoman of the MN Rural Broadband Coalition, explaining that Minnesota needs $70 million is State support for broadband grants to reach broadband speed goals.
The Border-to-Border Broadband program has helped the state reach an admirable 91% penetration rate toward the universal access goal, and has become a national model that other states are using to make sure they aren’t left behind. But the Minnesota program hit a snag last year. After four consecutive years of funding, the bill authorizing the 2018 appropriation was caught in a political cross-fire and vetoed by former Gov. Mark Dayton over issues not related to broadband. That stopped the program, and the progress needs to continue this year to make up for lost time.
The good thing is that it can be done and we know exactly how much is necessary to put the program back on track. That number is $35 million a year for the next two years, or $70 million for the biennium. That’s the number the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and Gov. Tim Walz recommended to the legislature, and that’s the number the Minnesota House passed off the floor last week. The Senate is taking a different strategy, moving a bill authorizing a one-time appropriation of $30 million as its Border-to-Border position. We don’t think that is enough, but we understand and respect that positions are being established and negotiations are about to begin as the May 20, end-of-session deadline begins to emerge.