Mankato Free Press posts in an editorial…
Agreement between Republicans and Democrats at the Minnesota Legislature for robust investment in broadband is win-win for rural and outstate Minnesota.
Now we just have to agree how big we should go. Democrats, independents and Republicans favor at least a $120 million investment in broadband projects in Minnesota for the next two years. That is double the $20 million to $30 million annual investments made in the past.
Gov. Tim Walz initially proposed $50 million for one year, but earlier this month, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said the investment would be upped should the state’s financial picture improve. That happened Friday with a new forecast showing the state would have a $1.6 billion surplus for the next two years instead of a $1.3 billion deficit.
That’s good news, and Walz and his team should immediately up their broadband investment to at least the $120 million proposed by Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Tom Bakk, who was once Senate DFL Majority leader and who now is an independent, co-sponsored a bill with the Republican majority in the Senate to fund broadband at $120 million. That was the figure recommended by the Governor’s Broadband Task Force and that’s the reason they proposed that figure, Bakk told MinnPost.
Minnesota also will receive $408 million over six years in federal funding for broadband.
Rural areas have been left behind, and the state now has the funds and political will to greatly expand broadband. It’s not only good political strategy, it’s a good economic strategy.