MN Broadband Task Force March 2021: New grant through Office of Community Finance

The MN Broadband Task Force met today. They got the usual legislature updates (including updates on funding), updates from subcommittees on what they plan to do, a presentation from Cable Labs and, what I think might be of greatest interest, a presentation from Update from DEED’s Office of Community Finance on broadband grants that should soon be available. (You can see them speak at the start of the second video below._

Here’s a quick recap:

They got $37 million in CARES funding to dole out (via SBDG. They have decided to spend $25 million on broadband. They goal is to help communities prepare, prevent and respond to COVID. They need approval from Legislature but no reason to think they won’t get it. As soon as they do they will put out an RFP to local governments for the funding (to entitlements and non-entitlements). Here are some of the things they know about the grants:

  • Can’t do to duplicate efforts
  • No match required
  • Goes to local unit of government
  • Can fund projects in tribal areas if money goes through local government
  • Needs to be spent in three years
  • One time grant
  • Max for project is $5 million (but that seemed flexible)
  • Should focus at least 51 percent on serving low to moderate income households

Legislative Update:

  • No new bills except clone bills
  • Some broadband bills were heard, such a easements and grants (in House Ag committee). House Industrial is set to hear more tomorrow but expected to just move bill to another committee.
  • Angie Craig has been working on rural broadband

Update on Emergency Broadband Bill – families can get $50/household ($75 in tribal areas) Providers must be approved by March 22. Learn more: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit

Biden just signed the American Rescue Bill  – explicitly includes broadband for people having trouble with household bills & fiscal recovery funds for community help with investment in water, sewer and broadband for expenses through 2024

OBD is encouraging local provider to become eligible for Emergency Broadband Bill money. Big providers are; process happens through the FCC. Hoping that they will include a wide range of services – not just low cost plans. And guestimate that funds will last 5-6 month.

Subgroup reports

Unserved/underserve/Funding will work on:

  • Focus on unserved – where are they? How can we reach them? Does it help to change the grant requirements?
  • Looking at fixed wireless, esp RDOF and LTD Broadband
  • Looking at satellite for hard to reach areas
  • Want to talk with demographer

Mapping Speed Goals will work on:

  • Want to look at MN County speeds which will come out in April to see post-COVID difference. Hope to look at access and use
  • Noted that symmetrical 100/100 access is not possible with all broadband modes

Accessibility/Affordability/Education will work on:

  • Plan to talk with ARC, Kauffman, tribal communities
  • Talking about digital navigators and helping consumers understand affordable options

Cable Labs

  • Presented on their goal to get to 10G (10 Gig access) with a fiber-coax-wireless (in home) model
  • 80 percent of households have cable available fiber (79 percent in MN)
  • Demand has increased during the pandemic. Download demand has increased 30 percent; upload demand has increased 45 percent.
This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy 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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