A broadband bill was recently introduced in Minnesota HF3605 that looks at broadband line extension reverse auction and broadband easements for all providers. I wanted to post a introduction today and save a deeper dive for later. The crossroads of technology and policy always deserve a closer look.
Reverse Auction – Broadband Line Extension Program
The very high level description: the bill proposes that the State creates a portal where unserved households can submit their address. The results are reported every 6 months to providers in the state, providers who serve any listed addresses can correct the list, then providers are invited to participate in a reserve auction to serve those households still on the unserved list.
The money will come from MN DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) and a grant issued under this section must not exceed $25,000 per line extension.
I don’t see an overall budget. I don’t see broadband being defined; although I suspect they will use the same definitions for the Border to Border grant which would push projects that serve 100 Mbps down and 20 up and are scalable to 100/100.
The bill looks similar to one that recently passed in Indiana. I am not sure how much the name (Broadband Line Extension Program) speaks to the intention. That name implies that they are looking to incumbents to extend their service but I’m hoping they are looking for anyone to extend connectivity to unserved households. On a practical basis, I have heard providers say it is easier to extend a line than build in a new space but I think there are likely some providers who have greater interest in building in new areas than the incumbents have in extending. Reading the bill, it seems like the opportunity would be open to all.
The MN bill also addresses easements. As a reminder (from League of MN Cities),
The 2021 omnibus commerce bill (First Special Session Chapter 4. Article 7, Section 2) includes language that now allows an electric cooperative, an affiliate of the cooperative, or another entity pursuant to an agreement, to utilize current or future easements for electric distribution to be used for the deployment of broadband infrastructure.
This bill may be in reaction to that, which may explain why electric cooperatives are excluded. Again the very high level description: broadband providers can use existing easements (permission) granted to the provider, affiliate or partner to deploy broadband; this may include private property. There are rules, exceptions and protocols especially for unhappy property owners.