Office of Broadband Development presents to MN House Committee – hearing a sense of urgency!

It was a quick meeting today. Policymakers asking good questions with a theme of how can we get money to the unserved folks most quickly. There are clearly a few folks on the committee who are frustrated with their own home access. That may help ignite a fire under everyone – especially as most legislative meetings seem to be remote this year. There is a plan to recycle HF14 (via Rep Rob Ecklund) to get money for broadband. Next step might be getting presentations from the providers; maybe they’ll hear from the communities too.

The MN House Industrial Education and Economic Development Committee got a presentation (House Industrial Ed Broadband Update_DEED) from the Office of Broadband Development on Broadband. They outlined the actions they have taken to get federal funding.

  • Capital Projects Funds – hope to hear by end of month. Will run grant program once they hear – with $70M going to border to border grants.
  • 240,000 houses do not have broadband in MN (speeds 100/20 Mbps); 224,000 of those are in non-metro areas. These numbers are likely low.

Q & A:

  • Why did MN only apply for $70M – although could have gone for $180M. The Legislature only appropriated $70M but there is a chance for more?
  • What about ARPA? How much and where was spent at local level? Not sure – but folks are used it. We will share more when we have it.
  • Is there a timeline for spending federal funds? Until end of 2026
  • Do we have manpower to spend federal funds? Treasury will likely be flexible since worldwide there are supply chain and labor issues.
  • Are we trying to expand broadband to expand to those who don’t have it expeditiously? Yes
  • Who is helping unserved areas? Office of Broadband Development will be reaching out on federal opportunities
  • I want to see every communication made to unserved areas – the ones who are truly unserved, like my area.
  • What has been the impact of RDOF? Treasury says Office of Broadband can award Border to Border funds if the provider doesn’t have an enforceable contract at the time.
  • How much to get broadband to everyone? The areas left are most expensive. We can look into it.
  • What is Walz’s Broadband Budget? $170M of state general funds – spent over at least 3 years. Also budget to get more staff on DNR to help with permitting.
  • What is timeline for opening border to border grants? We are set up; we just need approval
  • If we had appreciated funds in 2021, could you have spent them? Yes

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