From the MN Broadband Coalition…
First Week of Session Recap
As you know, the 2022 legislative session got underway this week at the Capitol in Saint Paul. The first week featured a light workload, but committee work has started and there is a brief update to provide.
House Committee Hears Update from Office of Broadband Development
On Wednesday, February 3, the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Committee invited Angie Dickison, Director of the Office of Broadband Development to give an update to committee members on the state grant program, pending federal funds, and a roadmap for the agency’s priorities in 2022 and beyond.
Here are some highlights from the hearing:
- OBD anticipates $70 million allocated last year from the Capital Projects Fund to arrive this month. If this occurs, OBD would conduct TWO rounds of grants in 2022. One as soon as possible and a second grant round in July (FY23). This would help get the state back on track after missing last summer’s construction season.
- A total of 224,000 Minnesota households lack access to 100mbps/20mbps service (2026 state speed goal) and it would require $1.3 billion to connect them. A combination of federal investments and state investments will get us across the finish line, but labor and materials shortages as well as permitting delays will make this challenging.
- OBD is planning to use federal funding earmarked for administering broadband funds to help conduct outreach to communities that require assistance in locating a willing provider, writing grants, and other items.
- The Office indicated that the state could approve state grants to build in RDOF preliminary auction award areas. If the FCC does not have an “enforceable agreement” with an RDOF provider, then the state can move ahead with border-to-border grants in those areas. They are also working to let applicants know this would be the policy of OBD moving forward.
- Rep. Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls) indicated that HF 14 has been recalled from the Committee on Ways and Means and will serve as the broadband funding bill this session. The initial plan is to amend the bill with $110 million of unallocated Capital Projects Fund dollars as well as the $170 million state general fund request in Governor Walz’s supplemental budget. Several other policy items may be considered as additions to this bill, and we will update you on them when we have more concrete information.
- We anticipate a hearing on this bill will likely occur in late February or early March. We’ll be asking you to speak with your elected officials when this happens.