MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: Senate Hears Broadband Bills

An update from the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…

Senate Hears Three Broadband Funding and Policy Bills
Saint Paul, Minn.—The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee heard SF 22, SF 946, and SF 1186 during its meeting today. You may recall our summary that was sent out earlier this week that outlined the bills currently moving through the legislative process.
Three of those bills were heard today:

  • SF 22 (Bakk) Broadband Funding
    • $120 million, biennial ongoing funding
  • SF 946 (Westrom) Broadband Funding + Unserved Targeting
    • $120 million, biennial ongoing funding
    • $30 million, biennial targeted to unserved areas
    • Projects that must go through an underserved area to get to unserved area would qualify
    • State match may be up to 55% if 10% comes from a non-state entity.
    • Language from last session/special sessions
  • SF 1186 (Draheim) Mapping Changes + Funding
    • Annual mapping contract, must collect data from “wired and wireless” providers, make maps public by April 15, annually.
    • $50 million, biennial one-time funding
    • Unserved only
    • “Must not be used in areas scheduled to be built out through federal assistance”

The Coalition submitted a letter to the committee outlining our testimony and position on the three bills. (you can read that letter here) We wrote in support of SF 22 and SF 946. We could not fully support SF 1186 because of the clause that prevents the state from investing in areas that are scheduled to receive federal assistance. We know that federal programs have not always met the high standards that the Border-to-Border Program has in place, particularly when it comes to broadband speeds.
All three bills were laid over for possible inclusion in a forthcoming committee budget bill.
We want to thank all three bill authors for continuing to keep broadband front-and-center at the Legislature as well as Sen. Torrey Westrom for dedicating time in his committee to hearing the bills. The next step is the February Revenue Forecast which will be revealed Friday morning (2/26). We will find out what the state’s finances look like and get a better idea in the coming weeks what the state budget will look like. Stay tuned for an update at the end of the week.
HF 686, Electric Cooperative Easements Bill Heard in House
Rep. Rob Ecklund’s bill that would allow electric cooperatives build broadband network on existing electric easements was heard today by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee. The bill was updated by the author to include several provisions, including clauses that require property owners along the easement to be notified by mail and allow for up to six months for property owners to take legal action against cooperatives over the easement.
The bill was laid over by the committee so that stakeholders could continue to work on their differences and come to an agreement on the bill.

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