From the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…
Consider Broadband Provisions This Week
The Legislature has returned from its one-week break and has four days to pass omnibus finance and policy bills from their committees of origin and get them to the chamber floors for debate and passage. That’s a fancy way of saying each committee must choose which spending items and law changes will be put into one big bill, and that they must pass it from their committee by the end of the week.
Senate Agriculture Omnibus Bill
Let’s start with the Senate Agriculture Omnibus Bill. The committee will walk through SF958 this evening at 5:30pm and take public testimony. We’ve written a letter to the committee that you can read here. Tomorrow at 3:00pm the committee will “mark-up” (make changes) to the bill and pass it from the Agriculture Committee on to the Senate Finance Committee.
Here is what is included in the bill related to broadband:
- $40 million for the Border-to-Border program
- $30 million in FY22 and $10 million FY23
- $10 million out of $30 million in FY22 must go to totally unserved areas
- State can cover up to 55% of project costs
- If available, federal covid relief funds must be used before state general funds
- $350,000 per year for the Office of Broadband Development
- Addition of “fixed wireless” to the definition of broadband service
- Requirement of annual mapping of all broadband service in Minnesota
The Coalition will be supporting the Border-to-Border funding as well as the annual funding for the Office of Broadband Development. The Coalition will not be supporting the addition of “fixed wireless” to the broadband definitions. We have outlined our reasoning in the letter linked above.
House Commerce Omnibus Bill
Article 6, Section 23 of HF 1031 is the rural electric cooperative easements bill (HF 686). This bill would allow rural electric cooperatives to build broadband networks on existing electric easements. The bill has undergone some changes since it was first introduced and will likely be tweaked during the conference committee process.
The committee meets today at 3:00pm to walk through the bill and will meet to mark up and pass the bill tomorrow at 3:00pm.
House Broadband Provisions
The House broadband funding bill is currently sitting in the Ways and Means Committee, awaiting action. The House broadband provisions will eventually be amended onto the House Agriculture Omnibus bill to match up with the Senate version. The House and Senate use different committees of jurisdiction for broadband funding, so a few extra steps are necessary to get the provisions in the right place.