MN Office of Broadband Development presents to MN Senate – Agriculture, Broadband Rural Development

MN Office of Broadband Development presented to MN Senate committee on Agriculture, Broadband Rural Development. Video, notes and handouts below. The OBD did a great job; the questions are often the most interesting part, if you’ve been watching the OBD all year.

OBD Timeline

  • 2011 – speed goal
  • 2016 – revised speed goal 25/3
  • 2022 – $100 million state money for broadband grants
  • 2022 – grant applications are currently open. Folks can apply for line extension

Resources for digital equity is new for OBD.

Current state of broadband

  • 12 percent of MN do not get 100/20
  • 80 percent unserved are in rural area (1 in 3 households don’t have access!)

Info on grants

  • 6 years of appropriation out of last 8 years.
  • Awards are capped at $5 million and require 50 percent match – the Low Density Program in 2023 caps at $10 million with a 75 percent match
  • $168 million spent on grants

Federal Opportunities (IIJA)

  • BEAD – for infrastructure. MN will get $100 million but FCC mapping with impact that mount
  • Digital Equity – need to have a plan together by Nov 2023
  • ACP Affordable Connectivity Program
  • ReConnect (Dep of AG)
  • Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program
  • Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure (out in March 2023)
  • RDOF

Q: Lots of funding is coming in but sounds like different funds have and different requirements. But we still need state investment, right?
A: We can use state funds to leverage federal funds and expectations.

Q: What are the auctions?
A: Someone puts out a need, and a provider can come back with an offer to meet that need.

Q: SO if one provider builds the network and then says they can’t provide service, does the next guy have to rebuild
A: Hard to answer for the provider.

Q: About digital equity – are those just for households or businesses or also for schools and libraries?
A: We will try to bring everyone together.

Q: Where does border to border grant matches come from?
A: Could be a community or a provider.

Q: Where does the majority of the match come from?
A: Both community and providers – community especially since the pandemic.

Q: Wright County looks like it’s well served but I know there are areas without access. What do we do for them and others where the county is mostly served but not entirely.
A: The mapping is not always right, which is why we encourage folks to test the FCC maps.

Q: I have many constituents who need a line extension?
A: The line extension program would cover that.

Q: Do you have a full staff?
A: No – like all industries, we are trying to hire more.

Q: What is digital equity?
A: Making sure people have broadband but the tools and skills to use it as well. And affordable.

Q: So the OBD is expanding their role?
A: This expansion comes from NTIA and a requirement for receiving IIJA funds.

Q: Can you tell us about the recent rounds of grants?
A: Awarded $100 million in December. Just opened applications for $67 million.

Q: Are things getting delayed because of staff shortage?
A: Staffing is a priority and so are the grants. We are a staff of 6.

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