MN House committee discusses $120 million for broadband – hear concern about federal investment

The Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy met to hear testifiers and Representative Ecklund talk about HF14, the proposed $120 million for broadband grants (over two years). Everyone seemed on broad with recognizing the need, even the increased need for broadband in COVID and post-COVID world. One concern seemed to be spending state money on broadband without knowing how much federal money will be coming for broadband. The committee expressed interest in meeting again once we did know how much Minnesota would be getting.

This didn’t come up in the meeting but I think it’s helpful to remember that there is an opportunity to maximize use of federal funding with the state grant. We’ve seen that with at least two previous border to border grants. Fish Lake Township and Sunrise Township both grants where the provider (CenturyLink) investing their federal CAF money and the community raised funds to apply for (and get) a state grant. The CAF money only required CenturyLink to build to 25/3 but the state funding required faster speeds (100/2o) and that the connection be scalable to 100/100. State funding can help lift the utility and longevity of any federal investment.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the video by moving the cursor that times the video back to the left. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

“The proposal is $120 million for better broadband is meet the 2022 speed goals of 25/3 and prepare for 2026 speed goal of 100/20” @RobEcklund

The Office of Broadband Development gave a presentation…


Q: How much will MN get from Fed COVID funding? @GenePelowski
A: $300M total – states will fight for that funding. @mndeed
Q: What’s up with electric cooperatives?
A: Some cops provide service; others do not. It varies. Many deploy fiber; some used fixed wireless

Q: Are we on track to meet the broadband goals of 2026? @CedFrazierMN
A: That depends on state funding. 

Q: How do you reach all areas? @DaveLislegard
A: Grants provide extra incentive to serve the areas that are harder to serve. @mndeed
Q: Are there any immediate solutions?
A: We are tech neutral. We’ve seen hotspots for short term

Q: Can someone from industry tell us what we have done? @DebKiel
A: We will have more hearings. But they really stepped up to get students online during #COVID19 @mndeed
Q: If we invest $120M doesn’t that mean taxpayer funding – when fed might do it?
A: That is a concern. I talked to someone yesterday who said we might get a lot @GenePelowski

Q: We need kids to be in school? @RepJoeMcDonald
A: Yes, but telecommuting is not going away even after #COVID19 @JulieSandstede
A: We need broadband in my district @GenePelowski

They also heard from Vince Robinson from the MN Broadband Coalition:
“It’s nice to hear people talk more about how we fund broadband, not why. Livelihoods and lives in rural areas need broadband – work, school, health church.” #VinceRobinson

And from Andrea Zupancich, Mayor of Babbitt and realtor.
“People want to know about access to broadband before they buy a home. Businesses need to have business. Families are now sharing broadband so weak, they cannot do two Zooms at once. The need for broadband will not subside after #COVID19.”

Final comments from Rep Ecklund: Thanks for all. I’m sitting in a rented office because I don’t have adequate access to work at home.

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