MinnPost outlines conundrum with State vs Federal broadband funding

The MN Broadband grant recipients were announced on Thursday. While the announcement is always bittersweet, which is unavoidable when there a winning and losing communities. This time around the announcement is also controversial because 10 applications were taken out of the mix because those projects are located in areas that are now potentially eligible for federal funding (RDOF). MinnPost picks up on that issue…

That’s because Gov. Tim Walz’s administration won’t award state money for projects where telecom companies won more than $408 million in federal grants to provide new internet service across swaths of northeast, central and southern Minnesota. The biggest federal grant winner was the controversial LTD Broadband, a company the governor’s own broadband task force is skeptical can meet its promises for a huge range of projects.

State officials say it could be a waste of taxpayer money to subsidize internet where another company plans to build infrastructure with other grant funding. And LTD Broadband maintains it can deliver a huge surge in broadband service in Minnesota. But some local developers say LTD’s failure, or even success, could delay broadband internet for areas they could quickly serve.

“Communities in Minnesota have worked diligently with providers to develop applications and had shovel-ready projects that could have been built as soon as this summer if they received a state grant,” Vince Robinson, chairman of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, said in a statement. “Now, communities that applied for state grants but were included in (federal) auction areas could have to wait up to six years before they receive service.”

They spoke to Barbara in Le Sueur about being in an area that is no longer eligible…

Barbara Droher Kline, a broadband consultant working with Le Sueur County, said the county had applications rejected by the state for two broadband projects for roughly 500 homes in areas that could potentially be served by LTD. Both are next to parts of the county where the county and other partners built fiber infrastructure with $547,000 from the federal stimulus CARES Act.

Droher Kline said about two-thirds of eligible areas in Le Sueur County are now covered by LTD’s winning bids, which means they may get broadband, but it also may take years. She suggested the state ask the feds to withdraw RDOF funding in areas where the state program can build infrastructure quickly. “It would have been a drop in the bucket (for LTD) and we’d have fiber in the ground this spring,” Droher Kline said.

The recent grants were also mentioned in the following places:

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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