The Minnesota House this week passed its Agriculture budget bill to strengthen farming and food production in Minnesota. The legislation funds the operations of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.
Additionally, the bill makes new investments in high-speed broadband across the state, which were originally introduced by Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls.
“Robust investments in high-speed broadband are some of the most urgent steps we can make to protect rural communities and economies. In addition to the funding for our state’s farmers and food production industries, this bill contains important funding to help Minnesotans get online,” Ecklund said. “Over the last year, students, families, and businesses have come to depend on internet access more than ever. In this legislation, House DFLers are continuing our strong track record of investments to ensure all Minnesotans have the fast, reliable internet access they deserve.”
And they get into the details…
The bill also invests $30 million over the next two years in the state Border to Border Broadband Grant Program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesotans have had an unprecedented reliance on broadband for distance learning, working from home, and accessing telehealth services. The funding would be used to meet state speed and connectivity goals in unserved and underserved parts of the state. In 2019, lawmakers put into law the goal of every household and business having access to broadband internet of at least 25mbs/3mbs by 2022. As of January 2021, 83 percent of households in rural areas have access meeting this benchmark.
The $30 million investment would supplement funding Minnesota will receive under the American Rescue Plan eligible toward broadband expansion which Congress recently passed and President Biden signed into law. State officials are still determining how much money could be available, including investments from the Economic Development Administration under the U.S. Commerce Department, Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, and the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund.