Minnesota could be in line for an unprecedented windfall of money to help build high-speed internet in rural areas.
Every state was promised a minimum of $100 million for broadband development from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress late last year. But some states could get more, based on need.
Now, Minnesota officials have an estimate of that extra cash: $550 million. That would bring Minnesota up to $650 million for broadband from the infrastructure bill, a sum that would far eclipse any government spending in the state for developing high-speed internet in recent memory.
There’s federal funding…
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill — passed with some bipartisan support under President Joe Biden — contained $65 billion for broadband across the country. Of that, $42.5 billion was earmarked for states to distribute. But so far each state has known only that they would get a minimum of $100 million. …
The feds have previously outlined several potential purposes for the money, including allowing states to install Wi-Fi in multi-unit residential buildings. But Wells said Minnesota’s money is expected to be spent entirely on “deployment” of internet, primarily subsidizing the development of infrastructure — traditionally, fiber-optic cable — in places where it would be too expensive for internet providers to otherwise justify.
And State (directed) funding…
Legislators this year directed the state to use $110 million from the American Rescue Plan stimulus program passed under Biden for broadband infrastructure. In 2021, the Legislature approved $70 million from the plan for broadband development. That was already a large sum compared to historic spending on broadband.
How much would it cost to get broadband to all Minnesotans?
In October, the state estimated about 88.5 percent of Minnesotans have access to wireline internet like DSL, cable and fiber at speeds of 100/20 Mbps. And in March, before the Legislature approved $110 million for broadband, DEED officials said they would conservatively estimate the cost of meeting the 2026 goal for adequate broadband at $1.3 billion.