From the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition…
Senate Agriculture Committee Triples Broadband Funding to $120 Million
The Senate Agriculture Committee completed work on its omnibus bill this afternoon. The first draft of the bill included $40 million for broadband. Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-Saint Paul) offered an amendment to the bill that would raise that figure to $120 million over the biennium. After some technical revisions from Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), the committee unanimously approved the amendment and sent the amended bill to the Senate Finance Committee.
If the state receives guidance that federal covid relief funds can be spent on broadband, up to $80 million in additional funding would be allocated to the Border-to-Border Grant Program. If not, only $40 million would be spent.
Here’s a breakdown of how the funding would work:
- Guaranteed Spending: FY2022 $30 million/FY2023 $10 million.
- Federal funds must be used, but state general funds would be used if federal funds are not available.
- If more than $40 million of federal funding is available: FY2022 $60 million/FY2023 $60 million.
- Additional funding would be up to $30 million in FY 2022 and up to $50 million in FY2023.
The additional funding for broadband is a major victory for broadband advocates at the Legislature. The bill still contains some policy provisions that the Coalition is concerned about, like changes to the statutory broadband definitions. We will ask the upcoming conference committee on the bill to remove those provisions. However, we remain thankful to Sen. Torrey Westrom, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, as well as the rest of the committee members for making broadband a top priority.