Last night I went to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Session Priorities event. It was an opportunity to run into old friends and make some new ones. The night included two panel discussions among elected officials and an interview with Governor Walz. Democrats and Republicans were evenly represented on the panels.
Streamlining regulations and tax conformity were hot topics. One topic I did not hear in these discussions was broadband.
The Chamber doesn’t speak for legislature but it’s a barometer and it reflects what I’m seeing in other places. I don’t hear broadband as I walk down the halls of the Capitol. I don’t hear it mentioned in the news. That concerns me.
A lot of federal funding will be coming into Minnesota for broadband. The prediction at this point is $650 million. That’s a big number but it’s not enough. Predictions for costs to get ubiquitous broadband to everyone in Minnesota at the 2026 speed goal speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up range from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion. So the $650 million does not meet the need.
Also, the federal funding is not coming quickly and when it does Minnesota will compete with every other state for raw materials and workers needs to deploy the upgraded networks. We have a process set up to deploy funding now – the Minnesota Border to Border grants. Increased funding (and maybe staff for the Office of Broadband Development) will help us get a jump on ubiquitous broadband.
Both the Minnesota House (Jan 9) and Senate (Jan 11) have meetings set up where they have speakers to talk about broadband plans and/or telecommunications industry. It will be interesting to see if any talks about more investment.