Broadband Budget at MN Senate Committee Ag, Broadband, and Rural Dev Committee

Today the MN Senate Committee Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development Committee met and heard from Bree Maki, Director of the Office of Broadband Development about Governor Walz’s broadband budget. The presentation was quick. Senators had questions, many of which seemed to steam from a recent visit from the Minnesota Association of Townships

Questions:

Q: I support broadband, just heard from township folks and their need. We don’t have it in Afton.
Steve Fenske works hard

Q: We know the expensive connections are the ones we need to do now.
It is getting difficult. We will learn a lot through our low density pilot during this round where can request up to $10 million

Q: Chair – what about outreach – how do we get people to tell us if they need access?
OBD will do outreach to present through Association of Townships, Letters to the Editors help too. We get 3 percent operating cost.

Q: I recently spoke to Women in Gov group, spoke about affordable broadband as a gender issue. Broadband digital equity is an issue – with communities of color using smart phones over computers. During COVID, folks on reservations and remote locations had a harder time using telehealth and other applications. Jobs during COVID that could be done remotely but those without access, folks couldn’t work online. Is there a plan to promote access in the tribes? And how do you support communities of color.
We are working with tribal entities. WE have tribal liaisons. Digital equity did slide, though reliable access does help. WE just hired a digital equity lead and try to work with other government agencies. We have an opportunity to focus moving forward.

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