Recap on MN investments in broadband from Benton

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has compiled a nice recap of what’s happening in Minnesota in terns of broadband investment…

Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is the state’s financial tool to address the primary cause for the lack of broadband in unserved areas: high costs and lower population densities resulted in unsustainable business plans and thus broadband installations are not feasible. This month, Minnesota announced new grants that represent a significant acceleration of the Border-to-Border Program: previously, the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) Office of Broadband Development had provided nearly $130 million in Border-to-Border grants—matched with over $180 million in private and local matching funds—to connect more than 57,000 homes and businesses around Minnesota to high-speed internet since the program’s inception in 2014.

In May 2022, Minnesota enacted HF3420, which included $210 million for broadband resources:

  • $25 million in fiscal year (FY) 2023 and $25 million in FY 2024 in general fund spending directed to the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program, which provides 50% matching funds for broadband development costs for a qualifying project in unserved and underserved areas;
  • $60.703 million directed from the state’s share of the federal Capital Projects Fund authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act to be used for broadband grants under the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program, with the remaining $50 million reserved for the Walz administration to spend on any other eligible expenditure within the program’s guidelines, including digital inclusion efforts;
  • All of the state’s appropriation of at least $100 million directed from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to be used for broadband infrastructure deployment under the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program;
  • A set aside of $10 million from the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program funding and $30 million from the state’s BEAD grant share for the Low-Density Pilot Program to provide broadband service in areas of the state where a 50 percent match formula is not adequate to make a business case for broadband infrastructure deployment and allows up to 75 percent of the total project cost to be covered by Border-to-Border broadband grant funds;
  • A set aside of $15 million for a new Broadband Line Extension Program, which would fund smaller-scale broadband line extensions to individual homes and businesses that still lack access; and
  • A set aside of $15 million from the state’s BEAD grant share for comprehensive statewide broadband mapping efforts.

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