A new infrastructure package awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature in Washington includes $65 billion in order to bridge digital divides.
That includes at least $100 million for Minnesota — if not more.
“While the pandemic sort of highlighted the issues that we have and the gaps that we have, the need for the high-speed broadband doesn’t go away when the pandemic is over,” said Marc Johnson, executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative and a member of the Governor’s Taskforce on Broadband.
He pointed to forthcoming data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development that indicates 171,000 households in Minnesota have little to no broadband access and another 240,000 are considered underserved because they don’t meet the state goal of broadband speeds of 100/20 Mbps by 2026.
The Erickson’s speed? 5.37 Mbps. That’s the difference between minutes and hours to upload large files. Some Minnesotans have to transfer files overnight to make it work.
Johnson also noted that the legislature this session flagged $70 million for over two years, which will help the state’s efforts to bring everyone online with adequate speeds, he said, but isn’t enough to cross the “finish line.” The parts of the state that need connection are the most expensive.
He noted that $100 million per state for broadband is the baseline, and that number could increase based on need.
“It’s very, very encouraging for the state,” Johnson said. “We’re very excited about that.”