From the Minnesota Broadband Coalition…
The Legislature approved $210 million for broadband expansion as part of the Drought Relief, Agriculture, and Broadband Omnibus Bill (HF3420). Members of the House and Senate appointed to the conference committee negotiated a compromise on a mix of state and federal funds, with most funding allocated to the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.
- $50 million general fund for Border-to-Border ($25 million in FY23 and $25 million in FY24).
- $60.7 million ARPA Capital Projects Fund (must be spent by 2026).
- Up to $30 million for a low-density pilot program:
- Increased state match to 75% and grant cap to $10 million.
- Report back to the Legislature by 12/31/2023 on impact of match and cap changes.
- Up to $15 million for state broadband mapping.
- Up to $15 million for a line extension pilot program.
- Any unused funds for the above three categories revert to the Border-to-Border fund.
- $50 million ARPA Capital Projects Fund left unallocated by the Legislature for Governor Walz to spend within the bounds of Treasury guidelines.
- Ensures all funds the state receives from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ($100m+) will be deposited in the Border-to-Border Grant Program for future infrastructure grants.
The conference committee wrapped up their report on Saturday, May 21, and the House promptly passed the legislation a few hours later, 69-64. The Senate took up the bill on Sunday, May 22, and passed it 66-1. The bill heads to Governor Walz for his signature. The general fund appropriation means the Office of Broadband Development will issue an RFP for infrastructure grants as soon as possible, with the intention of getting some projects completed during the 2022 construction season. The additional general fund and federal money brings long-term stability to a popular program that has been hampered by intermittent funding since its inception.