The Mankato Free Press reports…
A proposal to provide more broadband funding across Minnesota faces an uncertain future this year as state officials consider how to spend federal virus-related aid.
The Minnesota Senate passed a $27 million broadband bill that relies on federal CARES Act money during the June special session, but the House never took up the bill. Republicans say House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Gov. Tim Walz have held up the bill over political issues, while Democrats say Walz is carefully weighing state spending priorities when it comes to federal COVID-19 funding.
As a result, the state may not get more broadband funding at a time when more Minnesotans are using the internet for work and school, something lawmakers agree will hurt Greater Minnesota over time.
Most policymakers recognize the need, but their solutions are different, some want cheaper short term answers, others are looking for long term investment…
Over the past few years, DFL and GOP lawmakers argued over how much to spend on broadband grants, as well as what kind of technology to pay for. Democrats favor spending more money on grants to install broadband fiber optics networks across the state. Republicans favor not spending as much but purchasing wireless hotspots and other less-expensive internet connectivity options.
Though it will take months before any broadband money passed this year funds internet infrastructure, rural lawmakers argue there’s far more need for that money than ever before as residents may have to drive to a McDonald’s parking lot or a nearby school just to connect to the web for telemedicine appointments or small-business needs.