Today the MN Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee heard a bill for a program that would introduce a reserve auction for Line Extension to single homes looking for better broadband. Cap per household is $25,000. Also it looks for commercial providers to get easement permission to deploy broadband as cooperatives got last year.
[note Wednesday I am adding a link to the live session – you’ll need to scroll to the Ag & Rural Dev segment. On Thursday, I should be able to update with archived link]
Here are the related documents:
Financial assistance program to extend broadband service to unserved areas establishment; process to allow existing easements to be used for broadband service establishment
- SF 3476 Senate Counsel Summary
- League of MN Cities Support for SF 3476 – 3-2-22
- MN Rural Broadband (MRBC) Letter SF 3476
- MnTech Support for SF 3476
- SF 3476 A-3 (Author’s Amendment)
The big issue today seems to come from the railroads; apparently they missed the similar bill that passed last year allowing electric cooperatives to use existing easements for broadband. The railroads are concerned about the safety of undermining the tracks. The Cable Association that has introduced the bill is concerned with equity for electric cooperatives and other broadband providers. The Railroads apparently weren’t aware of the bill last year or this probably would have come up last year. The legislators would prefer that the railroads and broadband providers work this out to get “peace in the valley” before moving forward. The fact that the bill was passed for the electric cooperatives will likely make this more difficult.
The Line Extension Program was not discussed much although the documents (linked to above) address it. The League of Minnesota Cities supports this bill. The MN Broadband Coalition supports the easements and has some reservations on the Line Extension Program – mostly that funding for it competes with Border to Border grant funding. “The Coalition would strongly prefer that the Legislature use state general fund money from the $9.3 billion surplus to und SF 3476.”