The 2020 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report has been posted on the Office of Broadband Development website.
Here’s a quick take from the Executive Summary:
Minnesota’s approach to broadband infrastructure development and deployment is regarded by many as best in class and considered as a model to follow. The key components that make it so successful are the Border to Border grant matching program, the mapping capabilities, the realistic and forward-looking internet speed goals, and the Office of Broadband Development (OBD). To maintain the leadership position Minnesota has created for itself, the Task Force has evaluated the effectiveness of the program and recommends a number of adjustments to ensure continued progress and guarantee that all Minnesotans have access to adequate broadband service in this new digital age.
The Broadband Grant Program should maintain priority on the 157,000 unserved households as they are unlikely to get service without the grant program. After careful review of the estimated cost to serve those households and applicable federal programs, the Task Force has found that it would be best to continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million. The State should fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program as a part of the base budget each year to ensure continued progress unhindered by surpluses or deficits which have caused inconsistent funding. The Task Force has also determined that all future awards and expenditures must be on service that meets or exceeds the 2026 speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
And the recommendations:
- Recommendation #1 Continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million from the base budget each year and ensure that all future expenditures must be on service that meets or exceeds the 2026 speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
- Recommendation #2 The Taskforce recommends the Office of Broadband Development receive an appropriation of $700,000 per biennium from the base budget. That figure is OBD’s estimate of funding needed to maintain current operations.
- Recommendation #3 Create an Office of Broadband operating annual fund of $1.5 million to promote broadband adoption and use and redress digital inequity.
- Recommendation #4 Given the condensed construction season in Minnesota, it is critical that permits are issued promptly. The state should convene a working group comprised of all state agencies relating to broadband construction permitting to streamline the process, both in time to issue the permits as well as the permit application process.
- Recommendation #5 There needs to be more oversight of railroad facilities by the Office of Pipeline Safety. Railroads need to be required to locate their own facilities and need to be encouraged to issue permits promptly.